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Full text of "Esther Waters : a novel"

10 



a 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR. 



A DRAMA IN MUSLIN. 
A MODERN LOVER. 

A mummer's WIFE. 

VAIN FORTUNE. 

THE STRIKE AT ARLINGFORD. 

MODERN PAINTING. 



ESTHER WATERS 

A Novel 



BY 

GEORGE MOORE 



LONDON 

WALTER SCOTT, LTD. 

24 WARWICK LANE, PATERNOSTER ROW 

1894 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2008 with funding from 

Microsoft Corporation 



http://www.archive.org/details/estherwatersnoveOOmoorrich 



To my Brother , 

Major Maurice Moore, 

I Affectionately Dedicate 

this Book. 



ESTHER WATERS. 



i. 

She stood on the platform watching the receding train. A 
few bushes hid the curve of the line ; the white vapour rose 
above them, evaporating in the pale evening. A moment 
more and the last carriage would pass out of sight. The 
white gates swung forward slowly and closed over the line. 

An oblong box painted reddish brown and tied with a rough 
rope lay on the seat beside her. The movement of her back 
and shoulders showed that the bundle she carried was a heavy 
one, the sharp bulging of the grey linen cloth that the weight 
was dead. She wore a faded yellow dress and a black jacket 
too warm for the day. A girl of twenty, short, strongly built, 
with short, strong arms. Her neck was plump, and her hair 
of so ordinary a brown that it passed unnoticed. The nose was 
too thick, but the nostrils were well formed. The eyes were 
grey, luminous, and veiled with dark lashes. But it was only 
when she laughed that her face lost its habitual expression, 
which was somewhat sullen ; then it flowed with bright humour. 
She laughed now, showing a white line of almond-shaped 
teeth. The porter had asked her if she were afraid to 
leave her bundle with her box. Both, he said, would go up 
together in the donkey-cart. The donkey-cart came down 
every evening to fetch parcels. . . . That was the way to 
Woodview, right up the lane. She could not miss it. She 
would find the lodge gate in that clump of trees. The man 
lingered, for she was an attractive girl, but the station-master 
called him away to remove some luggage. 

i 



2 ESTHER WATERS. 

It was a barren country. Once the sea had crawled at high 
tide half-way up the sloping sides of those downs. It would 
do so now were it not for the shingle bank which its surging 
had thrown up along the coast. Between the shingle bank and 
the shore a weedy river flowed and the little town stood clamped 
together, its feet in the water's edge. There were decaying 
shipyards about the harbour, and wooden breakwaters stretched 
long, thin arms seaward for ships that did not come. On the 
other side of the railway apple blossoms showed above a white- 
washed wall; some market gardening was done in the low- 
lying fields, whence the downs rose in gradual ascents. On 
the first slope there was a fringe of trees. That was Woodview. 

The girl gazed on this bleak country like one who saw it for 
the first time. She saw without perceiving, for her mind was 
occupied with other consideration. She found it difficult to 
decide whether she should leave her bundle with her box. It 
hung heavy in her hand, and she did not know how far Wood- 
view was from the station. At the end of the platform the station- 
master - took her ticket, and she passed over the level crossing 
still undecided. The lane began with iron railings, laurels, 
and French windows. She had been in service in such 
houses, and knew if she were engaged in any of them what 
her duties would be. But the life in Woodview was a great 
dream, and she could not imagine herself accomplishing all 
that would be required of her. There would be a butler, 
a footman, and a page ; she would not mind the page — but 
the butler and footman, what would they think? There 
would be an upper-housemaid and an under-housemaid, 
and perhaps a lady's-maid, and maybe that these ladies had 
been abroad with the family. She had heard of France 
and Germany. Their conversation would, no doubt, turn 
on such subjects. Her silence would betray her. They 
would ask her what situations she had been in, and when 
they learnt the truth she would have to leave disgraced. 
She had not sufficient money to pay for a ticket to London. 
But what excuse could she give to Lady Elwin, who had 
rescued her from Mrs. Dunbar and got her the place of 
kitchen-maid at Woodview? She must not go back. Her 
father would curse her, and perhaps beat her mother and her 
too. Ah ! he would not dare to strike her again, and the girl's 
face flushed with shameful remembrance. And her little 
brothers and sisters would cry if she came back. They had 



ESTHER WATERS. 3 

little enough to eat as it was. Of course she must not go back. 
How silly of her to think of such a thing ! 

She smiled, and her face became as bright as the month : 
it was the first day of June. Still she would be glad when the 
first week was over. If she had only a dress to wear in the 
afternoons ! The old yellow thing on her back would never 
do. But one of her cotton prints was pretty fresh; she must 
get a bit of red ribbon — that would make a difference. She 
had heard that the housemaids in places like Woodview 
always changed their dresses twice a day, and on Sundays 
went out in silk mantles and hats in the newest fashion. As 
for the lady's-maid, she of course had all her mistress's clothes, 
and walked with the butler. What would such people think of 
a little girl like her ! Her heart sank at the thought, and she 
sighed, anticipating much bitterness and disappointment. Even 
when her first quarter's wages came due she would hardly be 
able to buy herself a dress : they would want the money at 
home. Her quarter's wages ! A month's wages most like, for 
she'd never be able to keep the place. No doubt all those 
fields belonged to the squire, and those great trees too ; they 
must be fine folk, quite as fine as Lady Elwin : finer, for she 
lived in a house like those near the station. 

Op both sides of the straight road there were tall hedges, 
and the nursemaids lay in the wide shadows on the rich 
summer grass, their perambulators at a little distance. The 
hum of the town died out of the ear, and the girl con- 
tinued to imagine the future she was about to enter on with 
increasing distinctness. She could see two houses, one in grey 
stone, the other in red brick with a gable covered with ivy; and 
between them, lost in the north, the spire of a church. On 
questioning a passer-by she learnt that the first house was the 
Rectory, the second was. Woodview Lodge. If that was the 
lodge, what must the house be ? 

Two hundred yards further on the roads branched on 
either side of a triangular clump of trees. The sunlight 
was fierce in the meadows, but under the leaves the air was 
green and pleasant, and so vigorous that the flesh of the jaded 
town girl tingled already with the happiness of health. Behind 
those trees a large white-painted wooden gate opened into a 
handsome avenue. The gatekeeper told her to keep straight 
on, and to turn to the left when she got to the top. She had 
never seen anything like it before, and stopped to admire. 



4 ESTHER WATERS. 

The uncouth arms of elms roofed the roadway, and pink 
clouds showed through like pictures. The monotonous dove 
seemed the very heart of the silence. 

She had expected nothing so grand as this, and her 
doubts returned. She never would be able to keep the 
place. The avenue turned a little, and she came sud- 
denly upon a young man leaning over the paling, smoking 
his pipe. 

" Please, sir, is this the way to Woodview ? " 

" Yes, right up through the stables, round to the left." Then, 
noticing the sturdily-built figure, graceful in its sturdiness, and 
the bright cheeks full of lily and rose colour, he added, "You 
look pretty well done ; that bundle is a heavy one, let me hold 
it for you." 

" I am a little tired," she said, leaning the bundle on the 
paling. "They told me at the station that the donkey-cart 
would bring up my box later on." 

"Ah, then you are the new kitchen-maid. What's your 
name?" 

" Esther Waters." 

" My mother's the cook here; you'll have to mind your p's 
and q's or else you'll be dropped on. The devil of a temper 
while it lasts, but not a bad sort if you don't put her out." 

" Are you in service here ? " 

" No, but I hope to be afore long. I could have been two 
years ago, but mother did not like me to put on livery, and I 
don't know how I'll face her when I come running down to go 
out with the carriage." 

" Is the place vacant ? " Esther asked, raising her eyes timidly, 
looking at him sideways. 

"Yes, Jim Story got the sack about a week ago. When he 
had taken a drop he'd tell every blessed thing that was done 
in the stables. They'd get him down to the * Red Lion' for 
the purpose ; of course the squire couldn't stand that." 

" And shall you take the place ? " 

"Yes; I'm not going to spend my life carrying parcels up 
and down the King's Road, Brighton, if I can squeeze in here. 
It isn't so much the berth that I care about, but the advantages, 
information fresh from the fountain-head. You won't catch me 
chattering over the bar at the ' Red Lion ' and having every 
blessed word I say wired up to London and printed next morn- 
ing in all the papers." 



ESTHER WATERS. 5 

Esther wondered what he was talking about. She looked 
and saw a low, narrow forehead, a small, round head, a long 
nose, a pointed chin, and rather hollow, bloodless cheeks. 
Notwithstanding the shallow chest, he was powerfully built, the 
long arms could deal a swinging blow. The low forehead and 
the lustreless eyes told of a slight, unimaginative brain. Regular 
features and a look of natural honesty made William Latch 
a man that ten men and eighteen women out of twenty would 
like. 

" I see you have got books in that bundle," he said at the end 
of a long silence. " Fond of readin' ?" 

"They are mother's books," she replied hastily. "I was 
afraid to leave them at the station, for it would be easy for any 
one to take one out, and I should not miss it until I undid the 
bundle." 

"Sarah Tucker — that's the upper-housemaid — will be after 
you to lend them to her. She is a wonderful reader. She has 
read every story that has come out in Bow Bells for the last 
three years, and you can't puzzle her, try as you will; she 
knows all the names, can tell you which lord it was that saved 
the girl from the carriage when the 'osses were tearing like 
mad towards a precipice a 'undred feet deep, and all about the 
baronet for whose sake the girl went out to drown herself in 
the moonlight. I 'aven't read the books mesel', but Sarah and 
me are great pals ? " 

Esther trembled lest he might ask her again if she were fond 
of reading. She could not read, and she was ashamed of her 
ignorance. He noticing a change in the expression of her face 
concluded that she was disappointed to hear that he liked 
Sarah, and regretted his indiscretion. 

" Good friends, you know — no more. Sarah and me never 
hit it off; she will worry me with the stories she reads. I don't 
know what is your taste, but I likes something more practical ; 
the little 'oss in there, he is more to my taste." Fearing he might 
speak again of her books, she mustered up courage and said — 

"They told me at the station that the donkey-cart would 
bring up my box." 

" The donkey-cart isn't going to the station to-night— you'll 
want your things, to be sure. I'll see the coachman ; perhaps 
he is going down with the trap. But, golly ! it has gone the 
half-hour. I shall catch it for keeping you talking, and my 
mother has been expecting you for the last hour ... she hasn't 



6 ESTHER WATERS. 

a soul to help her, and six people coming to dinner. You must 
say the train was late." 

" Let us go, then," cried Esther. " Will you show me the 
way?" 

When the conversation dropped the coo of the pigeons grew 
louder. Over the iron gate which opened into the pleasure- 
ground thick branches of evergreen oaks made an arch of foliage. 
Between the trees a glimpse was caught of the angles and urns 
of an Italian house — distant about a hundred yards. A high 
brick wall separated the pleasure-ground from the stables, and as 
William and Esther turned to the left and walked up the road- 
way William explained that the numerous buildings were 
stables. They passed by many doors, hearing the trampling 
of horses and the rattling of chains. Then the roadway opened 
into a handsome yard overlooked by the house, the back pre- 
mises of which had been lately rebuilt in red brick. There were 
gables and ornamental porches, and through the large kitchen 
windows the servants were seen passing to and fro. At the 
top of this yard was a gate. It led into the park, and, like the 
other gate, was overhung by bunched evergreens. A string of 
horses came towards this gate, and William ran to open it. The 
horses were clothed in grey cloth. They wore hoods, and 
Esther noticed the black round eyes looking through the 
eyelet holes. They were ridden by small, ugly boys who 
swung their little legs, and struck them with ash plants when 
they reached their heads forward chawing at the bits. When 
William returned he said, " Look there, the third one ; that's 
he— that's Silver Braid." 

An impatient knocking at the kitchen window interrupted 
his admiration, and William, turning quickly, said, "Mind 
you say the train was late; don't say I kept you, or you'll 
get me into the devil of a pickle. This way." The door led 
into a wide passage covered with cocoanut matting. They 
walked a few yards ; the kitchen was the first door, and the 
handsome room she found herself in did not conform to any- 
thing that Esther had seen or heard of kitchens. The range 
almost filled one end of the room, and on it a dozen saucepans 
were simmering ; the dresser reached to the ceiling, and was 
covered with a multitude of plates and dishes. Esther thought 
how she must strive to keep it in its present beautiful condition, 
and the elegant white-capped servants passing round the white 
table made her feel her own insignificance. 



ESTHER WATERS. 7 

"This is the new kitchen-maid, mother." 

" Ah, is it indeed ? " said Mrs. Latch, looking up from the tray 
of tartlets which she had taken from the oven and was filling 
with jam. Esther noticed the likeness that Mrs. Latch bore 
to her son. The hair was iron grey, and, as in William's face, 
the nose was the most prominent feature. 

" I suppose you'll tell me the train was late ? " 

"Yes, mother, the train was a quarter of an hour late," 
William chimed in. 

" I didn't ask you, you idle, lazy, good-for-nothing vagabond. 
I suppose it was you who kept the girl all this time. Six people 
coming to dinner, and I've been the whole day without a 
kitchen-maid. If Margaret Gale hadn't come down to help 
me, I don't know where we should be; as it is, the dinner will 
be late." 

The two housemaids, both in print dresses, stood listening. 
Esther's face clouded, and when Mrs. Latch told her to take 
her things off and set to and prepare the vegetables, so that she 
might see what she was made of, Esther did not answer at once. 
She turned away, saying under her breath, " I must change 
my dress, and my box has not come up from the station yet." 

"You can tuck your dress up, and Margaret Gale will lend 
you her apron." 

Esther hesitated. 

"What you've got on don't look as if it could come to 
much damage. Come now, set to." 

The housemaids burst into loud laughter, and then a sullen 
look of dogged obstinacy passed over and settled on Esther's 
face, even to the point of visibly darkening the white and rose 
complexion. 



ESTHER WATERS. 



II. 

A sloping roof formed one end of the room, and through a 
broad, single pane the early sunlight fell across a wall papered 
with blue and white flowers. Print dresses hung over the door. 
On the wall were two pictures — a girl with a basket of flowers, 
the coloured supplement of an illustrated newspaper, and an 
old and dilapidated last-century print. On the chimneypiece 
there were photographs of the Gale family in Sunday clothes, 
and the green vases that Sarah had given Margaret on her 
birthday. 

In a low, narrow iron bed, pushed close against the wall in 
the full glare of the sunlight, Esther lay staring half-awake, 
her eyes open but still dim with dreams. She looked at the 
clock. It was not yet time to get up, and she raised her arms 
as if to cross them behind her head, but a sudden remembrance 
of yesterday arrested the movement, and a sudden shadow 
settled on her face. She had refused to prepare the vegetables. 
She hadn't answered, and the cook had turned her out of the 
kitchen. She had rushed from the house under the momen- 
tary sway of hope that she might succeed in walking back to 
London. But William had overtaken her in the avenue, he 
had expostulated with her, he had refused to allow her to pass. 
She had striven to tear herself from him, and, failing, had burst 
into tears. William had been very kind, and at last she had 
allowed him to lead her back, and all the time he had filled 
her ears with assurances that he would make it right with his 
mother. But Mrs. Latch had closed her kitchen against her, 
and she had had to go to her room. Even if they paid her fare 
back to London, how was she to face her mother? What 
would father say ? He would drive her from the house. But 
she had done nothing wrong. . . . Why did cook insult 
her? 

As she pulled on her stockings she stopped and wondered if 



ESTHER WATERS. 

she should awake Margaret Gale. Margaret's bed stood in the 
blond shadow of the obliquely falling wall. She lay in a heavy 
attitude, one arm thrown forward, her short, square face 
raised to the light. Margaret slept so deeply that for a 
moment Esther felt afraid. Suddenly the eyes opened, and 
Margaret looked at her vaguely, as if out of eternity. Raising 
her hands to her eyes she said — 

"What time is it?" 

" It has just gone six." 

"Then there's plenty of time; we needn't be down before 
seven. You get on with your dressing; there's no use my 
getting up till you are done — we'd be tumbling over each 
other. This is no room to put two girls to sleep in — one glass 
not much bigger than your hand. You'll have to get your box 
under your bed. ... In my last place I had a beautiful room 
with a Brussels carpet, and a marble washhandstand. I 

wouldn't stay here three days if it weren't " The girl 

laughed and turned lazily over. 

Esther did not answer. 

" Now, isn't it a grubby little room to put two girls to sleep 
in ? What was your last place like ? " 

Esther answered that she had hardly been in service before. 
Margaret was too much engrossed in her own thoughts to 
notice the curtness of the answer. 

" There's only one thing to be said for Woodview, and that is 
the eating ; we have everything we want, and we'd have more 
than we want if it weren't for the old cook : she must have her 
little bit out of everything, and she cuts us short in our bacon 
in the morning. But that reminds me ! You have set the 
cook against you ; you'll have to bring her over to your side if 
you want to remain here." 

"Why should I be asked to wash up the moment I came in 
the house, before even I had time to change my dress ? " 

" It was rather hard on you. She always gets as much as 
she can out of her kitchen-maid. But last night she was 
pressed, there was company to dinner. I'd have lent you an 
apron, and the dress you had on wasn't of much account." 

" It isn't because a girl is poor " 

" Oh, I didn't mean that ; I know well enough what it is to 
be hard up." Margaret clasped her stays across her plump 
figure and walked to the door for her dress. She was a pretty 
girl, with a snub nose and large, clear eyes. Her hair was 



IO ESTHER WATERS. 

lighter in tone than Esther's, and she had brushed it from her 
forehead so as to obviate the defect of her face, which was too 
shorjt. 

Esther was on her knees saying her prayers when Margaret 
turned to the light to button her boots. 

"Well I never!" she exclaimed. "Do you think prayers 
do any good ? " 

Esther looked up angrily. 

" I don't want to say anything against saying prayers, but I 
wouldn't before the others if I was you — they'll chaff dreadful, 
and call you Creeping J " 

" Oh, Margaret, I hope they won't do anything so wicked. 
But I'm afraid I shall not be long here, so it doesn't matter 
what they think of me." 

When they got downstairs they opened the windows and 
doors, and Margaret took Esther round, showing her where the 
things were kept, and telling her for how many she must lay 
the table. The rashers were frying when a number of boys 
and men came clattering up the passage. They cried to 
Esther to hurry up, declaring that they were late. Esther did 
not know who they were, but she served them as best she 
might. They breakfasted hastily and rushed away to the 
stables. They had not been long gone when the squire and 
his son Arthur appeared in the yard. The Gaffer, as he was 
called, was a man of about medium height. He wore breeches 
and gaiters, and in them his legs seemed grotesquely thick. 
His son was a narrow-chested, under-sized young man, absurdly 
thin and hatched faced. He was also in breeches and gaiters, 
and to his boots were attached long-necked spurs. His pale 
yellow hair gave him a somewhat ludicrous appearance. 
But he seemed quite different the moment he was in the 
saddle. He rode a beautiful chestnut horse, a little too thin, 
so Esther thought. The ugly little boys were mounted on 
horses equally thin. The squire rode a stout grey cob, and he 
watched the chestnut, and was also interested in the brown 
horse that walked with its head in the air, pulling at the 
smallest of all the boys, a little freckled, red-headed fellow. 

"That's Silver Braid, the brown horse, the one that the 
Demon is riding; the chestnut is Bayleaf, Ginger is riding 
him : he won the City and Suburban. Oh, we did have a fine 
time then, for we all had a bit on. The betting was twenty 
to one, and I won twelve and sixpence. Grover won thirty 



ESTHER WATERS. II 

shillings. They say that John — that's the butler— won a little 
fortune ; but he is so close no one knows what he does. . . . 
Cook wouldn't have anything on ; she says that betting is the 
curse of servants— you know what is said, that it was through 
betting that Mrs. Latch's husband got into trouble. He was 
steward here, you know, in the late squire's time." 

Then Margaret told all she had heard on the subject. 
The late Mr. Latch had been a confidential steward, and 
large sums of money were constantly passing through his 
hands for which he was never asked for any exact account 
Contrary to all expectation, Marksman was beaten for the 
Chester Cup, and the squire's property was placed under the 
charge of a receiver. Under the new management things were 
gone into more closely, and it was then discovered that Mr. 
Latch's accounts were incapable of satisfactory explanation. 
The defeat of Marksman had hit Mr. Latch as hard as it had 
hit the squire, and to pay his debts of honour he had to take 
from the money placed in his charge, confidently hoping to 
return it in a few months. The squire's misfortunes anticipated 
the realisation of his intentions, proceedings were threatened, 
but were withdrawn on Mrs. Latch coming forward with all 
her savings and volunteering to forego her wages for a term of 
years. Old Latch died soon after, some lucky bets set the 
squire on his legs again, the matter was half-forgotten, and in 
the next generation it became the legend of the Latch family. 
So it was to others, but to Mrs. Latch it became an incurable 
grief, and to remove her son from influences which, in her 
opinion, had caused his father's death, Mrs. Latch had always 
refused Mr. Barfield's offers to do something for William. 
Against her will he had been taught to ride in the hope of his 
becoming a jockey, but to her great joy he soon grew out 
of all such possibility. She had then placed him in an 
office in Brighton. But the young man's height and shape 
marked him out for livery, and Mrs. Latch was pained when 
Mr. Barfield proposed it. "Why cannot they leave me my 
son ? " she cried ; for it seemed to her that in that hateful 
cloth, buttons, and cockade, he would be no more her son, 
nor could she entirely forget what the Latches had been long 

a £°- 

"I believe there's going to be a trial this morning," said 

Margaret ; " Silver Braid was stripped — you noticed that — and 

Ginger always rides in the trials." 



12 ESTHER WATEUS. 

" I don't know what a trial is," said Esther. " They are not 
carriage-horses, are they ? They look too slight." 

" Carriage-horses, you ninny ! Where have you been to all 
this while — can't you see that they are race-horses ? " 

Esther hung down her head and murmured something which 
Margaret didn't catch. 

"To tell the truth, I didn't know much about them when 
I came, but then one never hears anything else here. And 
that reminds me — it is as much as your place is worth to breathe 
one syllable about them horses : you must know nothing when 
you are asked. That's what Jim Story got sacked for — saying 
in the * Red Lion ' that Valentine pulled up lame. We don't 
know how it came to the Gaffer's ears. I believe that it was 
Mr. Leopold that told; he finds out everything. But I was 
telling you how I learnt about the race-horses. It was from 
Jim Story — Jim was my pal — Sarah is after William, you know, 
the fellow who brought you into the kitchen last night. Jim 
could never talk about anything but the 'osses. We'd go 
every night and sit in the wood-shed, that's to say if it was wet; 
if it was fine we'd walk in the drove-way. I'd have married 
Jim, I know I should, if he hadn't been sent away. That's the 
worst of being a servant They sent Jim away just as if he 
was a dog. It was wrong of him to say the horse pulled up 
lame; I admit that, but they needn't have sent him away as 
they did." 

Esther did not listen to Margaret's discursive chatter. She 
was absorbed in the consideration of her own perilous position. 
Would they send her away at the end of the week, or that very 
afternoon? Would they give her a week's wages, or would 
they turn her out destitute to find her way back to London as 
best she might? What should she do if they turned her 
out-of-doors that very afternoon ? Walk back to London ? 
She did not know if that was possible. She did not know how 
far she had come — a long distance, no doubt. She had seen 
woods, hills, rivers, and towns flying past. Never would she 
be able to find her way back through that endless country ; 
besides, she could not carry her box on her back. . . . What 
was she to do ? Not a friend, not a penny in the world. Oh, 
why did such misfortune fall on a poor little girl who had 
never harmed any one in the world ! And if they did give her 
her fare back — what then? . . . Should she go home? . . . 
To whom? ... To her mother — to her poor mother, who 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 3 

would burst into tears, who would say, " Oh, my poor darling, 
I don't know what we shall do ; your father will never consent 
to your remaining here ? " 

Mrs. Latch had not spoken to her since she had come into 
the kitchen. It seemed to Esther that she had looked round 
with the air of one anxious to discover something that might 
serve as a pretext for blame. She had told Esther to make 
haste and lay the table afresh. Those who had gone were the 
stable folk, and breakfast had now to be prepared for the other 
servants. The person in the dark-green dress who spoke with 
her chin in the air, whose nose had been pinched to purple 
just above the nostrils, was Miss Grover, the lady's-maid. 
Grover addressed an occasional remark to Sarah Tucker, a tall 
girl with a thin, freckled face, and dark-red hair. The butler, 
who was not feeling well, did not appear at breakfast, and 
Esther was sent to him with a cup of tea. 

There were the plates to wash and the knives to clean, and 
when they were done there was cabbage, potatoes, onions to 
prepare, saucepans to fill with water, coal to fetch for the fire. 
She worked steadily without flagging, absorbed in her work, 
and in anticipation of Mrs. Barfield, who would come down, no 
doubt, about ten o'clock to order dinner. It was now past 
nine., The race-horses were coming through the paddock- 
gate ; Margaret called to Mr. Randal, a little man, wizen, 
with a face sallow with frequent indigestions. 

" Well, do you think the Gaffer's satisfied ? " said Margaret. 
John made no articulate reply, but he muttered something, and 
his manner showed that he strongly deprecated all female 
interest in racing, and when Sarah and Grover came running 
down the passage and overwhelmed him with questions, 
crowding round him, asking both together if Silver Braid had 
won his trial, he testily pushed them aside, declaring that if he 
had a race-horse he would not have a woman-servant in the 
place. . . . "A positive curse, this chatter, chatter. . . . Won 
his trial, indeed ! What business had a lot of female folk . . ." 
The rest of John's sarcasm was lost in his shirt collar as he 
hurried away to his pantry, closing the door after him. 

" What a testy little man he is ! " said Sarah; " he might have 
told us which won. He has known the Gaffer so long that he 
knows the moment he looks at him whether the gees are all 
right." 

" One can't speak to a chap in the lane that he doesn't know 



14 ESTHER WATERS. 

all about it next day," said Margaret. "Peggy hates him; 
you know the way she skulks about the back garden and up 
the 'ill so that she may meet young Johnson as he is ridin' 
home." 

" I'll have none of this scandal-mongering going on in my 
kitchen," said Mrs. Latch. " Do you see that girl there ? — 
she can't get past to her scullery." 

Esther would have managed pretty well if it had not been 
for the dining-room lunch. Miss Mary was expecting some 
friends to play tennis with her, and, besides the roast chicken, 
there were cotelettes a la Saubise and a curry. There was for 
desert a jelly and a blancmange, and Esther did not know 
where any of the things were, and a great deal of time was 
wasted. "Don't you move, I might as well get it myself," 
said the old woman. Mr. Randal, too, lost his temper, for she 
had no hot plates ready, nor could she distinguish between 
those that were to go to the dining-room and those that were 
to go to the servants' hall. She understood, however, that it 
would not be wise to give way to her feeling, and that the only 
way she could hope to retain her situation was by doing 
nothing to attract attention. She must learn to control that 
temper of hers — she must and would. And it was in this 
frame of mind and this determination that she entered the 
servants' hall. 

There were not more than ten or eleven at dinner, but sitting 
close together they seemed more numerous, and quite half the 
number of faces that looked up, as she took her place next to 
Margaret Gale, were unknown to her. There were the four 
ugly little boys whom she had seen on the race-horses, but 
she did not recognise them at first, and nearly opposite, sitting 
next to the lady's-maid, was a small, sandy-haired man about 
forty: he was beginning to show signs of stoutness, and two 
little round whiskers grew on his pallid cheeks. Mr. Randal 
sat at the end of the table helping the pudding. He 
addressed the sandy-haired man as Mr. Swindles ; but Esther 
learnt afterwards his real name was Ward, and that he was Mr. 
Barfield's head groom. She likewise discovered that "the 
Demon " was not the real name of the carroty-haired little boy, 
and she looked at him in amazement when he whispered in 
her ear that he would dearly love a real go-in at that pudding 
but it was so fattening that he didn't even dare to venture on 
more than a couple of sniffs. Seeing that the girl did not 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 5 

follow him he added, by way of explanation, " You know that 
I must keep under the six stone, and at times it becomes awful 
'ard." 

Esther thought him a nice little fellow, and tried to persuade 
him to forego his resolution not to touch pudding, until Mr. 
Swindles told her to desist. The attention of the whole table 
being thus drawn towards the boy, Esther was still further sur- 
prised at the admiration he seemed so easily to command and 
the important position he seemed to occupy, notwithstanding 
his diminutive stature, whereas the bigger boys were treated 
with very little consideration. The long-nosed lad, with weak 
eyes and sloping shoulders, who sat on the other side of the 
table on Mr. Swindles' left, was everybody's laughing-stock, 
especially Mr. Swindles', who did not cease to poke fun at him. 
Mr. Swindles was now telling poor Jim's misadventures with 
the Gaffer. 

" But why do you call him Mr. Leopold when his name is 
Mr. Randal ? " Esther ventured to inquire of the Demon. 

" On account of Leopold Rothschild," said the Demon ; 
" he's pretty near as rich, if the truth was known ; . , . won a 
pile over the City and Sub. Pity you weren't there; might 
have had a bit on." 

" I have never seen the City," Esther replied innocently. 

" Never seen the City and Sub. ! . . . I was up, had a lot 
in hand, so I came away from my 'orses the moment I got into 
the dip. The Tinman nearly caught me on the post — came 
with a terrific rush ; he is just hauful, that Tinman is. I did 
catch it from the Gaffer, ... he did give it me." 

The plates of all the boys except the Demon's were now 
filled with beefsteak pudding, potatoes, and greens, likewise 
Esther's. Mr. Leopold, Mr. Swindles, the housemaid, and the 
cook dined off the leg of mutton, a small slice of which was 
sent to the Demon. " That for a dinner ! " and as he took up 
his knife and fork and cut a small piece of his one slice, he 
said, "I suppose you never had to reduce yourself three 
pounds ; girls never have. I do run to flesh so, you wouldn't 
believe it. If I don't walk to Portslade and back every second 
day, I go up three or four pounds. Then there's nothing for 
it but the physic, and that's what settles me. Can you take 
physic ? " 

" I took three Beecham's pills once." 

" Oh, that's nothing. Can you take castor-oil ? " 



1 6 ESTHER WATERS. 

Esther looked in amazement at the little boy at her side. 
Swindles had overheard the question and burst into a roar 
of laughter. Every one wanted to know what the joke was, 
and, feeling they were poking fun at her, Esther refused to 
answer. 

The first helpings of pudding or mutton had taken the edge 
off their appetites, and before sending their plates for more 
they leaned over the table listening and laughing open- 
mouthed. It was a bare room, lit with one window, against 
which Mrs. Latch's austere figure appeared in dark-grey 
silhouette. The window looked on one of the little back 
courts and tiled ways which had been built at the back of the 
house ; and the shadowed northern light softened the listening 
faces with grey tints. 

"You know," said Mr. Swindles, glancing at Jim as if to 
assure himself that the boy was there and unable to escape 
from the hooks of his sarcasm, " how fast the Gaffer talks, and 
how he hates to be asked to repeat his words ? Knowing this, 
Jim always says, 'Yes, sir; yes, sir.' 'Now do you quite 
understand?' says the Gaffer. 'Yes, sir; yes, sir,' replies Jim, 
not having understood one word of what was said ; but relying 
on us to put him right. ' Now what did he say I was to do ? ' 
says Jim, the moment the Gaffer is out of hearing. But this 
morning we were on ahead and the Gaffer had Jim all to him- 
self. As usual he says, ' Now do you quite understand?' and 
as usual Jim says, ' Yes, sir ; yes, sir.' Suspecting that Jim had 
not understood, I said when he joined us, ' Now if you are not 
sure what he said you had better go back and ask him,' but 
Jim declared that he had perfectly understood. ' And what did 
he tell you to do ? ' said I. ' He told me,' says Jim, ' to bring 
the colt along and finish up close by where he would be stand- 
ing at the end of the track.' I thought it rather odd to send 
Firefly such a stiff gallop as all that, but Jim was certain that 
he had heard right. And off they went, beginning the other 
side of Southwick Hill. I saw the Gaffer with his arms in the 
air, and don't know now what he said. Jim will tell you. He 
did give it you, didn't he, you old Wool-gatherer?" said Mr. 
Swindles, slapping the boy on the shoulder. 

"You may laugh as much as you please, but I'm sure he 
did tell me to come along three-quarter speed after passing the 
barn," replied Jim, and to change the conversation he asked 
Mr. Leopold for some more pudding, and the Demon's hungry 



ESTHER WATERS. 17 

eyes watched the last portion being placed on the Wool- 
gatherer's plate. Noticing that Esther drank no beer he 
exclaimed — 

" Well I never, to see yer eat and drink one would think that 
it was you who was a-wasting to ride the crack at Goodwood." 

The remark was received with laughter, and, excited by his 
success, the Demon threw his arms round Esther, and seizing 
her hands, said, " Now yer a jest beginning to get through yer 

'osses, and when you get on a level " But the Demon, in 

his hungry merriment, had bestowed no thought of finding a 
temper in such a staid little girl, and a sound box on the 
ear threw him backwards into his seat surprised and howl- 
ing. " Yer nasty thing ! " he blubbered out. " Couldn't you 
see it was only a joke ? " But passion was hot in Esther. She 
had understood no word that had been said since she had sat 
down to dinner, and, conscious of her poverty and her ignor- 
ance, imagined easily that a great deal of the Demon's conver- 
sation had been directed against her ; and, choking with indig- 
nation, she only heard indistinctly the reproaches with which 
the other little boys covered her, "nasty, dirty, ill-tempered 
thing, scullery-maid," etc. ; nor did she understand their 
whispered plans to duck her when she passed the stables. 
All looked a little askance, especially Grover and Mr. Leopold. 
Margaret said — ■ 

" That will teach these impertinent little jockey-boys that the 
servants' hall is not the harness-room; they oughtn't to be 
admitted here at all." 

Mr. Leopold nodded, and told the Demon to leave off 
blubbering. " You can't be so much hurt as all that. Come, 
wipe your eyes and have a piece of currant tart, or leave the 
room. I want to hear from Mr. Swindles an account of the 
trial. We know that Silver Braid won, but we haven't heard 
how he won nor yet what the weights were." 

" Well," said Mr. Swindles, " what I makes out is this : I 
was riding within a pound or two of eight stone seven, and The 
Rake is, as you know, seven pounds, no more, worse than 
Bayleaf. Ginger rides usually as near as possible my weight — 
we'll say he was riding eight stone seven, I think he could 
manage that — and the Demon, we know, he is now riding over 
the six stone ; in his ordinary clothes he rides six seven." 

"Yes, yes, but how do we know that there wasn't seven, 
perhaps ten, pounds of lead in the saddle-cloth ? " 

2 



1 8 ESTHER WATERS. 

" The Demon says there wasn't. Don't you, Demon ? " 

" I don't know nothing; I'm not going to stand being clouted 
by the kitchen-maid." 

" Oh, shut up, or leave the room," said Mr. Leopold ; " we 
don't want to hear any more about that." 

" I started making the running according to orders. Ginger 
was within three-quarters of a length of me, being pulled out of 
the saddle. The Gaffer was standing at the three-quarters of 
the mile, and there Ginger won fairly easily, but they went on 
to the mill, them were the orders, and there the Demon won 
by half a length, that is to say if Ginger wasn't a-kidding of 
him." 

" A-kidding of me ! " said the Demon. " When we was a 
quarter of a mile from 'ome I took a pull without his noticing 
me, and then I landed in last fifty yards by half a length. 
Ginger can't ride much better than any other gentleman." 

" Yer see," said Mr. Swindles, " he'd sooner have a box on 
the ear from the kitchen-maid than be told a gentleman could 
kid him at a finish. He wouldn't mind if it was the Tinman, 
eh, Demon?" 

"We know," said Mr. Leopold, "that Bayleaf can get the 
mile; there must have been a lot of weight between them. 
Besides, I should think that the trial was at the three-quarters 
of the mile. The mile was so much kid." 

" I should say," replied Mr. Swindles, " that the 'orses were 
tried at a stone, and if Silver Braid can beat Bayleaf at that 
weight, he'll take a deal of beating at Goodwood." 

And leaning forward, their arms on the table, with large 
pieces of cheese at the end of their knives, the maid-servants 
and the jockey listened to Mr. Leopold and Mr. Swindles dis- 
cussing the chances the stable had of pulling off the Stewards' 
Cup with Silver Braid. 

" But he will always keep on trying them," said Mr. Swindles, 
" and what's the use, says I, of trying 'orses that are no more 
than 'alf fit, and them downs is just rotten with 'orse watchers ; 
it has just come to this, that you can't comb out an 'orse's 
mane without seeing it in the papers the day after. If I had 

my way with them gentry " Mr. Swindles finished his 

beer at a gulp, and he put down his glass as firmly as he 
desired to put down the horse watchers. At the end of a long 
silence Mr. Leopold said — 

" Come into my pantry and smoke a pipe. Mr. Arthur will 



ESTHER WATERS. 19 

be down presently. Perhaps he'll tell us what weight he was 
riding this morning." 

" Cunning old bird," said Mr. Swindles, as he rose from the 
table and wiped his shaven lips with the back of his hand ; 
"and you'd have us believe that you didn't know, would you? 
You'd have us believe, would you, that the Gaffer don't tell 
you everything when you bring up his hot water in the morning, 
would you ? " 

Mr. Leopold laughed under his breath, and looking mysterious 
and very rat-like he led the way to his pantry. Esther watched 
them in strange trouble of soul. 

She had heard of racecourses as shameful places where men 
were led to their ruin, and betting she had always understood 
to be sinful, but in this house no one seemed to think of any- 
thing else. It was no place for a Christian girl. 

"Let's have some more of the story," Margaret said. 
" You've got the new number. The last piece was where he 
is going to ask the opera-singer to run away with him." 

Sarah took an illustrated journal out of her pocket and began 
to read aloud. 



20 ESTHER WATERS. 



III. 

Esther was one of the Plymouth Brethren. In their chapel, 
if the house in which they met could be called a chapel, there 
was neither pictured stories of saints, nor vestments, nor music, 
nor even imaginative stimulant in the shape of written prayers. 
Her knowledge of life was strictly limited to her experience of 
life; she knew no drama of passion except that which the 
Gospels relate ; this story in the Family Reader was the first 
representation of life she had met with, and its humanity 
thrilled her like the first idol set up for worship. The actress 
told Norris that she loved him. They were on a balcony, 
the sky was blue, the moon was shining, the warm scent 
of the mignonette came up from the garden below, the 
man was in evening dress with diamond shirt studs, the 
actress's arm was large and white. They had loved each 
other for years. The strangest events had happened for the 
purpose of bringing them together, and, fascinated against her 
will, Esther could not but listen. But at the end of the 
chapter the racial instinct forced reproval from her. 

"I am sure it is wicked to read such tales." 

Sarah looked at her in mute astonishment. Grover said — 

"You shouldn't be here at all. Can't Mrs. Latch find 
nothing for you to do in the scullery ? " 

Then Sarah, awaking to a sense of the situation, said, " I 
suppose that where you come from you were not so much as 
allowed to read a tale ; . . . dirty little chapel-going folk ! " 

The incident might have closed with this reproval had not 
Margaret volunteered the information that Esther's box was full 
of books. 

"I should like to see them books," said Sarah. "I'll be 
bound that they are only prayer-books." 

" I don't mind what you say to me, but you shall not insult 
my religion." 



ESTHER WATERS. 21 

" Insult your religion ! I said you never had read a book in 
your life unless it was a prayer-book." 

" We don't use prayer-books." 

" Then what books have you read ? " 

Esther hesitated, her manner betrayed her, and, suspecting 
the truth, Sarah said — 

" I don't believe that you can read at all. Come, I'll bet you 
twopence that you can't read the first five lines of my story." 

Esther pushed the paper from her and walked out of the room 
in a tumult of grief and humiliation. Woodview and all 
belonging to it had grown unbearable, and heedless to what 
complaint the cook might make against her she ran upstairs 
and shut herself into her room. She asked why they should 
take pleasure in torturing her. It was not her fault if she did 
not know how to read. There were the books she loved for her 
mother's sake, the books that had brought such disgrace upon 
her. Even the names she could not read, and the shame 
of her ignorance lay upon her heavier than a weight of lead. 
" Peter Parley's Annual," " Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands," 
"Children of the Abbey," "Uncle Tom's Cabin," Lamb's 
" Tales of Shakespeare's Plays," a Cooking Book, " Roda's 
Mission of Love," the Holy Bible and the Common Prayer 
Book. 

She turned them over, wondering what were the mysteries 
that this print held from her. It was to her mysterious as the 
stars. 

Esther Waters came from Barnstaple. She had been 
brought up in the strictness of the Plymouth Brethren, and her 
earliest memories were of prayers, of narrow, peaceful family 
life. This early life had lasted till she was ten years old. Then 
her father died. He had been a house-painter, but in early youth 
he had been led into intemperance by some wild companions. He 
was often not in a fit state to go to work, and one day the fumes 
of the beer he had drunk overpowered him as he sat in 
the strong sunlight on his scaffolding. In the hospital he called 
upon God to relieve him of his suffering ; then the Brethren 
said, "You never thought of God before. Be patient, your 
health is coming back ; it is a present from God ; you would 
like to know Him and thank Him from the bottom of your 
heart?" 

John Waters' heart was touched. He became one of the 
Brethren, renouncing those companions who refused to follow 



22 ESTHER WATERS. 

into the glory of God. His conversion and subsequent grace 
won for him the sympathies of Mary Thornby. But Mary's 
father would not consent to the marriage unless John abandoned 
his dangerous trade of house-painter. John Waters consented 
to do this, and old James Thornby, who had made a com- 
petence in the curiosity line, offered to make over his shop to 
the young couple on certain conditions; these conditions 
were accepted, and under his father-in-law's direction John 
drove a successful trade in old glass, old jewellery, and old 
furniture. 

The Brethren liked not this trade, and they often came to 
John to speak with him on the subject, and their words were — 

"Of course this is between you and the Lord, but these 
things (pointing to the old glass and jewellery) often are but 
snares for the feet, and lead weaker brethren into temptation. 
Of course it is between you and the Lord." 

John Waters was often tormented with scruples concerning 
the righteousness of his trade, but his wife's gentle voice and 
eyes, and the limitations that his accident, from which he had 
never wholly recovered, had set upon his life, overruled his 
religious scruples, and he remained until he died a dealer in 
artistic ware, eliminating, however, from his dealings those 
things to which the Brethren most strongly objected. 

When he died his widow strove to carry on the business, 
but her father, who was now a confirmed invalid, could not 
help her. In the following year she lost both her parents. 
Many changes were taking place in Barnstaple, new houses 
were being built, a much larger and finer shop had been opened 
in the more prosperous end of the town, and Mrs. Waters 
found herself obliged to sell her business for almost nothing, 
and marry again. Children were born of this second marriage 
in rapid succession, the cradle was never empty, and Esther 
was spoken of as the little nurse. Her great solicitude was 
for her poor mother, who had lost her health, whose blood was 
impoverished by constant childbearing. Mother and daughter 
were seen in the evenings, one with a baby at her breast, the 
other with an eighteen months' old child in her arms. Esther 
did not dare leave her mother, and to protect her she gave up 
school, and this was how she had never learnt how to read. 

One of the many causes of quarrel between Mrs. Saunders 
and her husband was her attendance at prayer-meetings when 
he said she should be at home minding her children. He used 



ESTHER WATERS. 23 

to accuse her of carrying on with the Scripture-readers, and to 
punish her he would say, "This week I'll spend five bob 
more in the public — that'll teach you, if beating won't, that 
I don't want none of your hypocritical folk hanging round 
my place." So it befell the Saunders family to have little to 
eat ; and Esther often wondered how she should get a bit of 
dinner for her sick mother and her hungry little brothers and 
sisters. Once they passed nearly thirty hours without food. 
She called them round her, and knelt down amid them ; they 
prayed that God might help them; and their prayers were 
answered, for at half-past twelve a Scripture lady came in with 
flowers in her hands. She asked Mrs. Saunders how her 
appetite was. Mrs. Saunders answered that it was more than she 
could afford, for there was nothing to eat in the house. Then 
the Scripture lady gave them eighteenpence, and they all 
knelt down and thanked God together. 

But although Saunders spent a great deal of his money in the 
public-house, he rarely got drunk, and always kept his employ- 
ment. He was a painter of engines, a first-rate hand, earning 
good money, from twenty-five to thirty shillings a week. He 
was a proud man, but so avaricious that he stopped at nothing 
to get money. He was an ardent politician, yet he would sell 
his vote to the highest bidder, and when Esther was seventeen 
he compelled her to take service regardless of the character of 
the people or what the place was like. They had left Barn- 
staple many months, and were now living in a little street off 
the Vauxhall Bridge Road, near the same factory where 
Saunders worked, and since they had been in London Esther 
had been constantly in service. Why should he keep her ? she 
wasn't one of his children, he had quite enough of his own. 
Sometimes of an evening, when Esther could escape from her 
drudgery for a few minutes, her mother would step round, and 
mother and daughter, wrapped in the same shawl, would walk 
to and fro telling each other their troubles, just as in old 
times. But these moments were few. In grimy lodging-houses 
she worked from early morn till late at night, scrubbing grates, 
preparing bacon and eggs, cooking chops, and making beds. 
She had become one of those London girls to whom rest, not 
to say pleasure, is unknown, who if they should sit down for a 
few moments hear the mistress's voice, " Now, Eliza, have you 
nothing to do, that you are sitting there idle ? " Two of her 
mistresses, one after the other, had been sold up, and now all 



24 ESTHER WATERS. 

the rooms in the neighbourhood were unlet, no one wanted a 
" slavey," and Esther was obliged to return home. It was on 
the last of these occasions that her father had taken her by the 
shoulders, saying — 

" No lodging-houses that want a slavey? I'll see about that. 
Tell me, first, have you been to 78?" 

" Yes, but another girl was before me, and the place was 
taken when I arrived." 

" I wonder what you were doing that you didn't get there 
sooner j dangling about after your mother, I suppose ! Well, 
what about 2 7 in the Crescent ? " 

"I couldn't go there — that Mrs. Dunbar is a bad woman." 

" Bad woman ! Who are you, I should like to know, that 
you can take a lady's character away ? Who told you she was 
a bad woman ? One of the Scripture-readers, I suppose ! I 
knew it was. Well, then, just get out of my house." 

"Where shall I go?" 

" Go to for all I care. Do you hear me ? Get out ! " 

Esther did not move — words, and then blows. Esther's 
escape from her stepfather seemed a miracle, and his anger 
was only appeased by Mrs. Saunders promising that Esther 
should accept the situation. 

" Only for a little while. Perhaps Mrs. Dunbar is a better 
woman than you think for. For my sake, dearie. If you don't 
he may kill you and me too." 

Esther looked at her one moment, then she said, "Very 
well, mother, to-morrow I'll take the place." 

Mrs. Dunbar engaged her at once. No longer was the girl 
starved, no longer was she made to drudge till the thought of 
another day was a despair and a terror. And seeing that she 
was a good girl Mrs. Dunbar respected her scruples. Indeed 
she was very kind, and Esther soon learnt to like her, and 
through her affection for her to think less of the life she led. 
A dangerous point is this in a young girl's life. Esther was 
young, and pretty, and weary, and out of health. At this 
critical moment Lady Elwin, a good lady, who, while district 
visiting, had heard Esther's story, promised Mrs. Saunders 
to find Esther another place. And to obviate all difficulties 
about references and character Lady Elwin proposed to take 
Esther as her own servant for sufficient while to justify her in 
recommending her. So it was that Esther came as kitchen- 
maid to Woodview. 



ESTHER WATERS. 2$ 

And now, as she turned over her books — the books she could 
not read — her pure and passionate mind was filled with the 
story of her life. She remembered her poor little brothers and 
sisters and her dear mother, and that tyrant revenging himself 
upon them because of the little she might eat and drink. 
No, she must bear with all insults and scorn, and forget that 
they thought her as dirt under their feet. But what were such 
sufferings compared to those she would endure were she to 
return home ? In truth they were as nothing. And yet the 
girl longed to leave Woodview. She had never been out of 
sight of home before. Amid the violences of her stepfather 
there had always been her mother and the meeting house. 
In Woodview there was nothing, only Margaret, who had come 
to console and persuade her to come downstairs. The resolu- 
tion she had to call out of her soul to do this exhausted her, 
and she went downstairs heedless of what any one might say. 

Two and three days passed without anything occurring that 
might suggest whether the Fates were for or against her 
remaining. Mrs. Barfield continued indisposed, but towards 
the end of the week Esther, while she was at work in the 
scullery, heard a new voice speaking with Mrs. Latch. This 
must be Mrs. Barfield. She heard Mrs. Latch tell the story 
of her refusal to go to work the evening she arrived. But 
Mrs. Barfield told her that she would listen to no further 
complaints; this was the third kitchen-maid in four months, 
and Mrs. Latch must make up her mind to bear with the faults 
and failings of this last one, whatever they were. Then Mrs. 
Barfield called Esther ; and when she entered the kitchen she 
found herself face to face with a little red-haired woman, with 
a pretty, pointed face. 

" I hear, Waters — that is your name, I think — that you 
refused to obey cook, and walked out of the kitchen the night 
you arrived." 

" I said, ma'am, that I would wait till my box came up from 
the station, so that I might change my dress. Mrs. Latch said 
my dress didn't matter, but when one is poor and hasn't many 
dresses " 

" Are you short of clothes, then ? " 

" I have not many, ma'am, and the dress I had on the day I 
came " 

" Never mind about that. Tell me, are you short of clothes ? 
— for if you are I daresay my daughter might find you some- 



26 ESTHER WATERS. 

thing — you are about the same height — with a little altera- 
tion " 

"Oh, ma'am, you are too good. I shall be most grateful. 
But I think I shall be able to manage till my first quarter's 
wages comes to me." 

Nor did the scowl upon Mrs. Latch's long face kill the 
pleasure of the little interview which that kind, sweet woman, 
Mrs. Barfield, had created in her. She moved about her 
work, happy at heart, singing to herself as she washed the 
vegetables. But none the less was she determined, however 
much Mrs. Latch might dislike her, to remove by good 
nature those feelings which she knew she had done nothing 
to deserve. Margaret suggested that Esther should give up 
her beer. A solid pint extra a day could not fail, she said, 
to soften the old woman's heart and induce her to teach 
Esther how to make pastry and jellies. 

True that Margaret joined in the common laugh and jeer 
that the knowledge that Esther said her prayers morning and 
evening inspired. She sometimes united with Grover and 
Sarah in perplexing Esther with questions regarding her pre- 
vious situations, but her hostilities were, on the whole, gentle, 
and Esther felt that this almost neutral position was the best 
that Margaret could have adopted. She defended her without 
seeming to do so, and seemed genuinely fond of her, helping 
her sometimes even with her work, which Mrs. Latch made as 
heavy as possible. But Esther was now determined to put up 
with every task they might impose upon her ; she would give 
them no excuse for sending her away; she would remain at 
Woodview until she had learned sufficient cooking to enable 
her to get another place. But Mrs. Latch had the power to 
thwart her in this. Before beginning on her jellies and gravies 
Mrs. Latch was sure to find some saucepans that had not 
been sufficiently cleaned with white sand, and, if her search 
proved abortive, she would send Esther upstairs to scrub out 
her bedroom. 

" I cannot think why she is so down upon me," Esther often 
said to Margaret. 

" She isn't more down upon you than she was on the others. 
You needn't expect to learn any cooking from her ; her plan 
has always been to take care that she shall not be supplanted 
by any of her kitchen-maids. But I don't see why she should 
be always sending you upstairs to clean out her bedroom. If 



ESTHER WATERS. 27 

Grover wasn't so stand-offish, we might tell her about it, and 
she could tell the Saint — that's what we call the missis ; the 
Saint would soon put a stop to all that nonsense. I will say 
that for the Saint, she do like every one to have fair play." 

Mrs. Barfield, or the Saint, as she was called, belonged, like 
Esther, to the sect known as the Plymouth Brethren. She 
was the daughter of one of the farmers on the estate — a very 
old man called Elliot. He had spent his life on his barren down 
farm, becoming intimate with no one, driving hard bargains with 
all, especially the squire and the poor flint-pickers. He could be 
seen still on the hill-sides, his long black coat buttoned strictly 
about him, his soft felt hat crushed over the thin, grey face. 
Pretty Fanny Elliot had won the squire's heart as he rode 
across the down. Do you not see the shy figure of the Puritan 
maiden tripping through the gorse, hastening the hoofs of the 
squire's cob? And, furnished with some pretext of estate 
business, he often rode to the farm that lay under the shaws 
at the end of the coombe. The squire had to promise to 
become one of the Brethren, and he had had to promise never 
to bet again, before Fanny Elliot agreed to become Mrs. 
Barfield. The ambitious members of the Barfields declared 
that the marriage was social ruin, but more dispassionate critics 
called it a very suitable match j for it was not forgotten that 
three generations ago the Barfields were livery-stable keepers ; 
they had risen in the late squire's time to the level of county 
families, and the envious were now saying that the Barfield 
family was sinking back whence it came. 

He was faithful to his promises for a time. Race-horses 
disappeared from the Woodview stables. It was not until after 
the birth of both his children that he entered one of his 
hunters in the hunt steeplechase. Soon after the racing stable 
was again in full swing at Woodview. Tears there were, and 
some family disunion, but time extorts concessions from all of 
us. Mrs. Barfield had ceased to quarrel with her husband on 
the subject of his race-horses, and he in his turn did not 
attempt to restrict her in the exercise of her religion. She 
attended prayer-meetings when her soul moved her, and read 
the Scriptures when and where she pleased. 

It was one of her practices to have the women-servants for 
half-an-hour every Sunday afternoon in the library and instruct 
them in the life of Christ. Mrs. Barfield's goodness was even 
as a light upon her little oval face — reddish hair growing thin 



28 ESTHER WATERS. 

at the parting and smoothed back above the ears, as in an old 
engraving. Although nearly fifty, her figure was slight as a 
young girl's. Esther was attracted by the magnetisms of racial 
and religious affinities ; and when their eyes met at prayers 
there was acknowledgment of religious kinship. A glow of 
happiness filled Esther's soul, for she knew she was no longer 
wholly among strangers ; she knew they were united — she and 
her mistress — under the sweet dominion of Christ. To look 
at Mrs. Barfield filled her, somehow, with recollection of her 
pious childhood; she saw herself in the old shop, moving 
again in an atmosphere of prayer, listening to the beautiful 
story, in the annunciation of which her life had grown up. 
She answered her mistress's questions in sweet light-hearted- 
ness of spirit, pleasing her with her knowledge of the Holy 
Book. But in turn the servants had begun to read verses 
aloud from the New Testament, and Esther saw that her secret 
would be torn from her. Sarah had read a verse, and Mrs. 
Barfield had explained it, and now Margaret was reading. 
Esther listened, thinking if she might plead illness and escape 
from the room ; but she could not summon sufficient presence 
of mind, and while she was still agitated and debating with 
herself, Mrs. Barfield called to her to continue. She hung 
down her head, suffocated with the shame of the exposure, and 
when Mrs. Barfield told Jier again to continue the reading 
Esther shook her head. 

" Can you not read, Esther ? ' she heard a kind voice saying ; 
and the sound of this voice loosed the feelings long pent up, 
and the girl, giving way utterly, burst into passionate weeping. 
She was alone with her suffering, conscious of nothing else, 
until a kind hand led her from the room, and this hand soothed 
away the bitterness of the tittering which reached her ears as 
the door closed. It was hard to persuade her to speak, but 
even the first words showed that there was more on the girl's 
heart than could be told in a few minutes. Mrs. Barfield 
determined to take the matter at once in hand ; she dismissed 
the other servants and returned to the library with Esther, and 
in that dim room of little green sofas, bookless shelves, and 
bird-cages, the women — mistress and maid — sealed the bond 
of a friendship which was to last for life. 

Esther told her mistress everything — the work that Mrs. 
Latch required of her, the persecution she received from the 
other servants, principally because of her religion. In the 



ESTHER WATERS. 29 

course of the narrative allusion was made to the race-horses, 
and Esther saw on Mrs. Barfield's face a look of grief, and it 
was clear to what Mrs. Barfleld attributed the demoralisation 
of her household. 

" I will teach you how to read, Esther. Every Sunday after 
our Bible instruction you shall remain when the others have 
left, for half-an-hour. It is not difficult ; you will soon learn." 

Henceforth, every Sunday afternoon, Mrs. Barfield devoted 
half-an-hour to the instruction of her kitchen-maid. These 
half-hours were bright spots of happiness in the serving-girl's 
weeks of work, happiness that had been and would be again. 
But although possessing a clear intelligence, Esther did not 
make much progress, nor did her diligence and desire seem to 
help her. Mrs. Barfield was puzzled by her pupil's slowness ; 
she ascribed it to her own inaptitude to teach and the little 
time for lessons. Esther's powerlessness to put syllables 
together, to grasp the meaning of words, was very marked. 
Strange it was, no doubt, but all that concerned the printed 
page seemed to embarrass and elude her. 



30 ESTHER WATERS. 



IV. 

Esther's position in Woodview was now assured, and her 
fellow-servants recognised the fact, though they liked her 
none the better for it. Mrs. Latch still did what she could to 
prevent her learning her trade, but she no longer attempted to 
overburden her with work. Of Mr. Leopold she saw almost 
as little as she did of the people upstairs. He passed along 
the passages or remained shut up in his pantry. Ginger used 
to go there to smoke ; when the door stood ajar Esther saw 
his narrow person seated on the edge of the table, his leg 
swinging. Among the pantry people Mr. Leopold's erudition 
was a constant subject of admiration. His reminiscences of 
the races of thirty years ago were full of interest ; he had seen 
the great horses whose names live in the stud-book, the horses 
the Gaffer had owned, had trained, had ridden, and was full of 
anecdote concerning them and the Gaffer. Praise of his 
father's horsemanship always caused a cloud to gather on 
Ginger's face, and when he left the pantry Swindles chuckled. 
" Whenever I wants to get a rise out of Ginger I says, ' Ah, 
we shall never see another gentleman jock who can use the 
whip at a finish like the Governor in his best days.' " 

Every one delighted in the pantry, and to make Mr. Leopold 
comfortable Mr. Swindles used to bring in the wolf-skin rug 
that went out with the carriage, and wrap it round Mr. Leopold's 
wooden arm-chair, and the sallow little man would curl himself 
up, and, smoking his long clay, discuss the weights of the next 
big handicap. If Ginger contradicted him he would go to the 
press and extract from its obscurity a package of Bell's Life or 
a file of the Sportsman. 

Mr. Leopold's press ! For forty years no one had looked 
into that press. Mr. Leopold guarded it from every gaze, but 
it seemed to be a many-varied repository from which, if he 
chose, he could produce almost any trifle that might be 



ESTHER WATERS. 3 I 

required. It especially combined the usefulness of a hardware 
shop and a drug store. 

The pantry had its etiquette and its discipline. Jockey boys 
were rarely permitted, unless with the intention of securing 
their services for the cleaning of boots or knives. William was 
very proud of his right of entry. For that half-hour in the 
pantry he would willingly surrender the pleasure of walking 
in the drove-way with Sarah. But when Mrs. Latch learnt 
that he was there her face darkened, and the noise she then 
made about the range with her saucepans was alarming. Mrs. 
Barfield shared her cook's horror of the pantry, and often 
spoke of Mr. Leopold as "that little man." Although out- 
wardly the family butler he had never ceased to be the Gaffer's 
private servant ; he represented the old days of bachelorhood. 
Mrs. Barfield and Mrs. Latch both disliked him. Had it not 
been for his influence Mrs. Barfield felt sure her husband 
would never have returned to his vice. Had it not been 
for Mr. Leopold Mrs. Latch felt that her husband would never 
have taken to betting. Legends and mystery had formed 
around Mr. Leopold and his pantry, and in Esther's unso- 
phisticated mind this little room, with its tobacco smoke and 
glasses on the table, became a symbol of all that was wicked 
and dangerous, and when she passed the door she closed her 
ears to the loud talk and instinctively lowered her eyes. 

The simplest human sentiments were abiding principles in 
Esther — love of God, and love of God in the home. But 
above this Protestantism was human nature; we are human 
first, we are religious after. At this time Esther was, above all 
else, a young girl. Her twentieth year thrilled within her ; she 
was no longer weary with work, and new, rich blood filled her 
veins. She sang at her work, gladdened by the sights and 
sounds of the yard : the young rooks cawing lustily in the ever- 
greens, the gardener passing to and fro with plants in his 
hands, the white cats licking themselves in the sun or 
running to meet the young ladies who brought them plates 
of milk. Then the race-horses were always going to or 
coming from the downs. Sometimes they came in so 
covered with white mud that part of their toilette was 
accomplished in the yard. From her kitchen window she 
could see the beautiful creature haltered to the hook fixed in 
the high wall, and the little boy in his shirt-sleeves and 
hitched-up trousers, not a bit afraid, but shouting and quieting 



32 ESTHER WATERS. 

him into submission with the stick when he kicked and bit, 
tickled by the washing brush passing under the belly. Then 
the wrestling, sparring, ball-playing of the lads when their work 
was done, the pale, pathetic figure of the Demon watching 
them. He was about to start for Portslade and back, wrapped, 
as he would put it, in a red-hot scorcher of an overcoat. 

Esther often longed for a romp with these boys ; she was 
now prime favourite with them. Once they caught her in the 
hay yard, and fine sport it was in the warm hay throwing each 
other over. Sometimes her wayward temper would get the 
better of her, but her momentary rage vanished at the sound of 
laughter. And after their tussling they would walk a little 
while pensively, until perhaps one with an adroit trip would 
send the other rolling over on the grass, and then, with wild 
cries, they would run down the drove-way. Then there was the 
day when the Wool-gatherer told her he was in love, and what 
fun they had had and how well she had led him into belief that 
she was jealous. She had taken a rope as if she were going 
to hang herself, and having fastened it to a branch she had knelt 
down as if she were saying her prayers. The poor Wool-gatherer 
could stand it no longer ; he had rushed to her side, swearing 
that if she would promise not to hang herself that he would 
never look at another girl again. The other boys, who had been 
crouching in the drove-way, rose up. How they did chaff the 
Wool-gatherer ! He had burst into tears, and Esther had felt 
sorry for him, and almost inclined to marry him out of pity for 
his forlorn condition. 

Her life grew happier and happier. She forgot that Mrs. 
Latch would not teach her how to make jellies, and had grown 
somewhat used to Sarah's allusions to her ignorance. She was 
still very poor, had not sufficient clothes, and her life was full 
of little troubles ; but there were compensations. It was to her 
that Mrs. Barfield always came when she wanted anything in a 
hurry, and Miss Mary, too, seemed to prefer to apply to Esther 
when she wanted milk for her cats or bran and oats for her 
rabbits. 

The Gaffer and his race-horses, the Saint and her green- 
house — so went the stream of life at Woodview. What few 
visitors came were entertained by Miss Mary in the drawing- 
room or on the tennis lawn. Mrs. Barfield saw no one. She 
desired to remain in her old gown — an old thing that her 
daughter had discarded long ago — pinned up around her, and 



ESTHER WATERS. 33 

on her head an old bonnet with a faded poppy hanging from 
the crown. In such attire she wished to be allowed to trot 
about to and fro from her greenhouse to her potting-shed, 
watering, pruning, and syringing her plants. These plants 
were dearer than all things to her except her children; she 
seemed, indeed, to treat them as if they were children, and 
with the sun pouring through the glass down on her back she 
would sit freeing them from devouring insects all the day long. 
She would carry can after can of water up the long path and 
never complain of fatigue. She broke into complaint only 
when Miss Mary forgot to feed ner pets, of which she had a 
great number : rabbits, and cats, and rooks, and all the work 
devolved upon her. She could not see these poor dumb crea- 
tures hungry, and would trudge to the stables, coming back 
laden with trusses of hay. But it was sometimes more than a 
pair of hands could do, and she would send Esther with scraps 
of meat, and bread, and milk to the unfortunate rooks that 
Mary had so unmercifully forgotten. " I'll have no more pets," 
she'd say ; " Miss Mary won't look after them, and all the 
trouble falls upon me; see these poor cats, how they come 
mewing round my skirts." She loved to expatiate on her inex- 
haustible affection for dumb animals, and she continued her 
anecdotal discourse, again leading Esther gradually into the 
tale of her own life. 

The Saint loved to hear Esther tell of her father and the little 
shop in Barnstaple, of the prayer-meetings and the simple 
earnestness and narrowness of the faith of those good Brethren. 
Circumstances had effaced, though they had not obliterated, 
the once sharply-marked confines of her religious habits. 
Her religion was like a garden, a little less sedulously tended 
than of yore, but no whit less fondly loved, and while listening 
to Esther's story she dreamed her own early life over again, 
and paused, laying down her watering-can, penetrated with the 
happiness of gentle memories. So Esther's life grew and was 
fashioned; so amid the ceaseless round of simple daily occupa- 
tions mistress and maid learned to know and to love one 
another, and became united and strengthful in the tender and 
ineffable sympathies of race and religion. 



34 ESTHER WATERS. 



The summer drowsed, baking the turf on the hills, and after 
every gallop the Gaffer passed his fingers along the fine legs 
of the crack, in fear and apprehension lest he should detect 
any swelling. William came every day for news. He had 
five shillings on ; he stood to win five pounds ten — quite a 
little fortune — and he often stopped to ask Esther if there was 
any news as he made his way to the pantry. She told him 
that so far as she knew Silver Braid was all right, and con- 
tinued shaking the rug. 

" You'll never get the dust out of that rug," he said at last ; 
" here, give it to me." She hesitated, then gave it him, and 
he beat it against the brick wall. " There," he said, handing 
it back to her, " that's how I beats a mat ; you won't find much 
dust in it now." 

" Thank you. . . . Sarah went by an hour and a half ago." 

" Ah, she must have gone to the Gardens. You hive never 
been to those Gardens, have you? Dancing-hall, theatre, 
sorcerers — every blessed thing. But you're that religious, I 
suppose you wouldn't come ? " 

" It is only the way you are brought up." 

" Well, will you come ? " 

" I don't think I should like those Gardens. . . . But I 
daresay they are no worse than any other place ; I've heard so 
much since I was here that really " 

" That really what ? " 

" That sometimes it seems useless like to be particular." 

" Of course, all rot. Well, will you come next Sunday ? " 

" Certainly not on Sunday." 

William told her that the Gaffer had engaged him as foot- 
man : his livery would be ready by Saturday, and he would 
enter service on Monday week. This reminded them that hence- 
forth they would see each other every day. William alluded 



ESTHER WATERS. 35 

again to the pain it would give his mother when he came 
running downstairs to go out with the carriage. " It was 
always her idea that I shouldn't be a servant, but I believe 
in doing what you gets most coin for doing. I should like to 
have been a jockey, and I could have ridden well enough 
— the Gaffer thought better at one time of my riding than 
he did of Ginger's. But I never had any luck j when I was 
about fifteen I began to grow. ... If I could have remained 
like the Demon." 

Esther looked at him, wondering if he were speaking 
seriously, and really wished away his splendid height and 
shoulders. 

A few days after he tried to persuade her to take a ticket in 
a shilling sweepstakes which he was getting up among the 
out and the indoor servants. She pleaded poverty — her 
wages would not be due till the end of August. But William 
offered to lend her the money, and he pressed the hat con- 
taining the bits of paper on which were written the horses' 
names so insinuatingly upon her that a sudden impulse to 
oblige him came over her, and before she had time to think 
she had put her hand in the hat and taken a number. 

" Come, none of your betting and gambling in my kitchen," 
said Mrs. Latch, turning from her work. " Why can't you leave 
that innocent girl alone ? " 

" Don't be that disagreeable, mother ; it ain't betting, it's 
a sweepstakes." 

" It is all the same," muttered Mrs. Latch ; " it always 
begins that way, and it goes on from bad to worse. I never 
saw any good come from it, and Heaven knows I have seen 
enough misfortune." 

Margaret and Sarah paused, looking at her open-mouthed, a 
little perplexed, holding the numbers they had drawn in both 
hands. Esther had not unfolded hers. She looked at Mrs. 
Latch and regretted having taken the ticket in the lottery. 
She feared jeers from Sarah, or from Grover, who had just 
come in, for her inability to read the name of the horse she 
had drawn. Seeing her dilemma William took her paper from 
her. 

"Silver Braid, ... by Jingo ! she had got the right one." 

At that moment the sound of hoofs was heard in the yard, 
and the servants flew to the window. 

" He'll win," cried William, leaning over the women's backs, 



36 ESTHER WATERS. 

waving his bony hand to the Demon who rode past on Silver 
Braid. " The Gaffer will bring him to the post as fit as a 
fiddle." 

" I think he will," said Mr. Leopold. " The rain has done us 
a lot of good ; he was beginning to go a bit short a week ago. 
We shall want some more rain. 1 should like to see it come 
down for the next week or more." 

Mr. Leopold's desires looked as if they were going to be 
fulfilled. The heavens seemed to have taken the fortunes of 
the stable in hand. Rain fell generally in the afternoon and 
night, leaving the mornings fine, and Silver Braid went the 
mile daily, becoming harder and stronger. And in the inter- 
mittent swish of showers blown up from the sea Woodview 
grew joyous, and a conviction of ultimate triumph gathered 
and settled on every face except Mrs. Barfield's and Mrs. 
Latch's. And askance they looked at the triumphant little 
butler. He became more and more the topic of conversation. 
He seemed to hold the thread of their destiny in his press. 
Peggy was especially afraid of him. 

And, continuing her confidences to the under-housemaid, 
the young lady said, " I like to know things for the pleasure 
of talking about them, but he for the pleasure of holding 
his tongue." Peggy was Miss Margaret Barfield, a cousin, 
the daughter of a rich brewer. " If he brings in your letters 
in the morning he hands them to you just as if he knew who 
they are from. Ugly little beast, it irritates me when he 
comes into the room." 

" He hates women, Miss ; he never lets us near his pantry, 
and he keeps William there talking racing." 

" Ah, William is very different. He ought never to have 
been a servant. His family was once quite as good as the 
Barfields." 

" So I have heard, Miss. But the world is that full of ups 
and downs you never can tell who is who. But we all likes 
William and 'ates that little man and his pantry. Mrs. Latch 
calls him the ' evil genius.' " 

A furtive and clandestine little man, ashamed of his women- 
folk and keeping them out of sight as much as possible. His 
wife a pale, dim woman, tall as he was short, preserving still 
some of the graces of the lady's-maid, shy either by nature or 
by the severe rule of her lord, always anxious to obliterate 
herself against the hedges when you met her in the lane or 



ESTHER WATERS. 37 

against the pantry door when any of the family knocked to ask 
for hot water, or came with a letter for the post. By nature a 
bachelor, he was instinctively ashamed of his family, and when 
the weary-looking wife, the thin, shy girl, or the corpulent, 
stupid-faced son were with him and he heard steps outside he 
would come out like a little wasp, and, unmistakably resenting 
the intrusion, would ask what was wanted. If it were Ginger, 
Mr. Leopold would say, "Can I do anything for you, Mr. 
Arthur?" 

" Oh, nothing, thank you ; I only thought that " and 

Ginger would invent some paltry excuse and slink away to 
smoke elsewhere. 

Every day a little before twelve Mr. Leopold went out for 
his morning walk, every day if it were fine you would meet him 
at that hour in the lane either coming from or going to Shore- 
ham. For thirty years he had done his little constitutional, 
always taking the same road, always starting within a few 
minutes of twelve, always returning in time to lay the cloth for 
lunch at half-past one. The hour between twelve and one he 
spent in the little cottage which he rented from the squire for 
his wife and children, or in the " Red Lion," where he had a 
glass of beer and talked with Watkins, the bookmaker. 

"There he goes, off to the 'Red Lion,"' said Mrs. Latch. 
" They try to get some information out of him, but he's too 
sharp for them, and he knows it ; that's what he goes there for 
— just for the pleasure of seeing them swallow the lies he tells 
them. . . . He has been telling them lies about the horses for 
the last twenty years, and still he gets them to believe what he 
says. It is a cruel shame ! It was the lies he told poor 
Jackson about Blue Beard that made the poor man back the 
horse for all he was worth." 

" And the horse didn't win." 

"Win! The master didn't even intend to run him, and 
Jackson lost all he had, and more. He went down to the 
river and drowned himself. John Randal has that man's 
death on his conscience. But his conscience don't trouble 
him much; if it did he'd be in his grave long ago. Lies, lies, 
nothing but lies! But I daresay I'm too 'ard on him; isn't 
lies our natural lot ? What is servants for but to lie when it 
is in their master's interest, and to be a confidential servant 
is to be the Prince of liars ! " 

" Perhaps he didn't know the 'orse was scratched." 






38 ESTHER WATERS. 

" I see you are falling in nicely with the lingo of the trade." 
" Oh," replied Esther, laughing, " one never hears anything 
else : one picks it up without knowing. Mr. Leopold is very 
rich, so they say. The boys tell me that he won a pile over 
the City and Suburban, and has thousands in the bank." 

"So some says; but who knows what he has? One hears 
of the winnings, but they say very little about the losings." 



ESTHER WATERS. 39 



VI. 

The boys were playing ball in the stables, but she did not 
feel as if she wanted to romp with them. There was a still- 
ness and a sweetness abroad which penetrated and absorbed 
her. She moved towards the paddock gate; the pony and 
the donkey came towards her, and she rubbed their muzzles 
in turn. It was a pleasure to touch anything, especially any- 
thing alive. She noticed that the elm-trees were strangely 
tall and still against the calm sky; the rich odour of some 
carnations came through the bushes about the pleasure-ground; 
the scent of earth and leaves tingled in the sense. The cawing 
of the rooks coming home interested her ; she was full of ex- 
quisite love for the earth, and of a desire to mix herself with 
the innermost essence of things. The beauty of the evening 
and the sea breeze instilled a sensation of immortal health, and 
she wondered if a young man came to her as young men came 
to the great ladies in Sarah's books, how it would be to talk 
in the dusk, seeing the bats flitting and the moon rising 
through the branches. 

The family was absent from Woodview, and she was free to 
enjoy the beauty of every twilight and every rising moon for still 
another week. But the pleasure of the first evening was not 
repeated. She wearied for a companion. Sarah and Grover 
were far too grand to walk out with her. Margaret had a young 
man who came to fetch her, and in their room at night she 
related all he had said. But for Esther there was nothing to do 
all the long summer evenings but sit at the kitchen window 
sewing. Her hands fell on her lap, and her heart heaved a 
sigh of weariness. In all this world there was nothing for her 
to do but to continue her sewing or to go for a walk on the hill. 
How tired she was of that weary hill ! But she could not sit in 
the kitchen till bedtime. She might meet the old shepherd 
coming home with his sheep. She put a piece of bread in her 



40 ESTHER WATERS. 

pocket for his dogs and strolled up the hill-side. Margaret had 
gone down to the Gardens. One of these days a young man 
would come to take her out. What would he be like ? She 
laughed the thought away. She did not think that any young 
man would bother much about her. Happening at that 
moment to look round, she saw a man coming through the 
hunting gate. His height and shoulders told her that he was 
William. "Trying to find Sarah," she thought. "I must 
not let him think I'm waiting for him." She continued her 
walk, wondering if he were following, afraid to look round. 
At last she fancied she could hear footsteps ; her heart beat 
faster. He called to her. 

" I think Sarah has gone to the Gardens," she said, turning 
round. 

''You always keep reminding me of Sarah. I have often 
told you that there is nothing between us; anything there 
ever was is all off long ago. . . . Are you going for a 
walk?" 

She answered that she was glad to have the chance to get 
a little fresh air, and they went towards the hunting gate. 
William held it open and she passed through. 

The plantations of Woodview reached half-way up the first 
hill. On the left the land sloped into a shallow valley sown 
with various crops, and long tongues of crimson crept 
through the grey sky. The valley deepened; the shaws 
about Elliot's farm were the last. Beyond them the great 
downland rolled northward, treeless, irreclaimable, scooped 
into patriarchal solitudes, thrown into wild crests overlooking 
a long chain of coast towns and the vague sea. 

There was a smell of sheep in the air, and they saw the 
flock trotting towards them, followed by the shepherd with 
his huge hat and crook, his two shaggy dogs at his heels. 
A brace of partridges rose out of the sainfoin, and flew 
whirling over the hills. Induced by the warmth of the 
vegetation, William and Esther sat down, and the grandeur 
of the rough outline of the landscape, so visible now, im- 
pressed itself upon them. 

"What a beautiful evening it is!" William said; "I don't 
think I ever knew finer weather ; and we shan't have any rain 
yet." 

" How do you know ? " 

" I'll tell you," William answered, eager to show his superior 



ESTHER WATERS. 4* 

knowledge. " Look due south-west, straight through that last 
dip in that line of hills. Do you see anything ? " 

"No, I can see nothing," said Esther, after straining her 
eyes for a few moments. 

" I thought not. ... Well, if it was going to rain you would 
see the Isle of Wight." 

For something to say, and hoping to please, Esther asked 
him where the race-course was. He pointed it out. 

" There, over yonder. I can't show you the start, a long 
way behind that hill, Portslade way; then they come right 
along by that gorse and finish up by Truly barn — you can't see 
Truly barn from here, that's Thunder's barrow barn ; they go 
quite half a mile farther." 

"And does all that land belong to the Gaffer?" 

" Yes, and a great deal more too ; but this downland isn't 
worth much, not more than about ten shillings an acre." 

" And how many acres are there ? " 

" Do you mean all that we can see ? " 

"Yes." 

" The Gaffer's property reaches to Southwick Hill, and it goes 
north a long way. I suppose you don't know that all this piece, 
all that lies between us and that barn yonder, once belonged 
to my family." 

"To your family?" 

" Yes, the Latches were once big swells ; in the time of my 
great-grandfather the Barfields could not hold their heads as 
high as the Latches. My great-grandfather had a pot of money, 
but it all went." 

" Racing ? " 

"A good bit, I've no doubt. A rare 'ard liver, cock fighting, 
'unting, 'orse racing from one year's end to the other. Then 
after 'im came my grandfather ; he went to the law, and a sad 
mess he made of it — went stony-broke and left my father with- 
out a sixpence ; that is why mother didn't want me to go into 
livery. The family 'ad. been coming down for generations, and 
mother thought that I was born to restore it ; and so I was, but 
not as she thought, by carrying parcels up and down the King's 
Road." 

Silent with admiration Esther looked at William, and, feeling 
that he had secured an appreciative listener, he continued to 
monologue regarding the wealth and rank his family had for- 
merly held, till a heavy dew forced them to their feet. They 



42 ESTHER WATERS. 

rose from the sainfoin and prepared to return. A full moon 
floated in the pale sky, and the valleys were brimmed with 
mist; lights flew from coast town to coast town, weaving a 
luminous garland. 

The sheep had been folded, and seeing them lying in the 
peacefulness of this hill-side, and beyond them the massive 
plantations of Woodview hushed in the twilight, and the town 
showing 'between the elms that stretched like a great green 
curtain between the sea and the downs, Esther suddenly 
became aware, as she had never done before, of the exceeding 
beauty of the world. Looking up in William's face, she said — 

" Oh, how beautiful ! " . 

As they descended the drove-way their feet raised the chalk, 
and William said — 

"This is bad for Silver Braid; we shall want some more 
rain in a day or two. . , . Let's come for a walk round the 
farm," he said suddenly. " The farm belongs to the Gaffer, 
but he's let the Lodge to a young fellow called Johnson. He's 
the chap that Peggy used to go after — there was awful rows 
about that, and worse when he forestalled the Gaffer about 
Egmont." 

Then the conversation wandered agreeably. William told 
all he knew about the chap who had jilted Miss Mary, and 
the various burlesque actresses at the Shoreham Gardens who 
had captivated Ginger's susceptible heart. Esther was strangely 
happy. All had combined to produce in her a oneness of 
sensation, and in her interest in the old farm she almost forgot 
her disappointment that William did not seem to understand 
the joy she felt in the beauty of the evening. He showed 
her, however, the pigeon-house with all the blue birds dozing on 
the tiles, a white one here and there, the workshop, the forge, 
the old cottages where the bailiff and the shepherd lived. And 
all this inanimate nature, the most insignificant objects in- 
spired love in her ; and an inward happiness whispered unin- 
telligibly within her. 

They left the farm, wandered on the high road, and stopped 
by a stile leading to a corn-field. A nightingale sang in the 
plantation. Its warbling filled the strange serenity with a little 
dread, and Esther could not keep her attention fixed on William. 
She prayed that the bird might cease so that she could listen 
to what the man was saying. He was explaining his scheme 
for the rehabilitation of his family. 



ESTHER WATERS. 43 

" Mother says that if I had twopence worth of pride in me 
I wouldn't have consented to put on the livery ; but what 
I says to mother is, « What's the use of having pride if you 
haven't money?' I tells her that I am rotten with pride, 
but my pride is to make money. I can't see that the man 
what is willing to remain poor all his life has any pride at 
all. . . . But, lord ! I have argued with mother till I'm sick; 
she can see nothing further than the livery; that's what women 
are— they are that short-sighted. ... A lot of good it would 
have done me to have carried parcels all my life, and when 
I could do four mile an hour no more, to be turned out to die 
in the ditch and be buried by the parish. ' Not good enough,' 
says I. ' If that's your pride, mother, you may put it in your 
pipe and smoke it, and as you 'aven't got a pipe perhaps behind 
the oven will do as well,' that's what I said to her. I saw well 
enough there was nothing for me but service, and I means to 
stop here until I can get on three or four good things and then 
retire into a nice comfortable public-house and do my own 
betting." 

"You would give up betting then?" 

" I'd give up backing 'orses, if you mean that. . . . What I 
should like would be to get on to a dozen good things at 
long prices — half-a-dozen like Silver Braid would do it. For a 
thousand or fifteen hundred pounds I could have the 'Red 
Lion,' and just inside my own bar I could do a hundred pound 
book on all the big races." 

He struck a match to light his pipe, which had gone out. 
The crack of the match put the music to flight, and all along 
the white road he continued his monologue, interrupted only 
by the necessity of puffing at his pipe. 

Esther listened, absorbed in his personality, hearing inter- 
minable references to jockeys, publicans, weights, odds, 
and the certainty, if he had the " Red Lion," of being 
able to get all Joe Walker's betting business away from 
him. Certain oblique allusions that he made to the 
police, and the care that must be taken not to bet with 
any one who has not been properly introduced, frightened 
her. But her fears vanished when he put his arm round her 
waist, when he stooped to kiss her. She protested that it was 
not right if he was going to marry Sarah. The very idea 
seemed to amuse him; he laughed loudly, and they walked up 
the avenue the conventional English lovers of the lower classes. 



44 ESTHER WATERS. 



VII. 

The Barfield calculation was that they had a stone in hand. 
Bayleaf, Mr. Leopold argued, would be backed to win a 
million of money if he were handicapped in the race at seven 
stone; and Silver Braid, who had been tried again with 
Bayleaf, and with the same result as before, had been let off 
with only six stone. 

More rain had fallen, the hay-crop had been irretrievably 
ruined, the prospects of the wheat harvest were jeopardised, 
but what did a few bushels of wheat matter ? Another pound 
of muscle in those superb hind-quarters was worth all the corn 
that could be grown between here and Henfield. Let the rain 
come down, let every ear of wheat be destroyed, so long as 
those delicate fore-legs remained sound. These were the 
ethics that obtained at Woodview, and within the last few days 
showed signs of adoption by the little town and not a few of 
the farmers, grown tired of seeing their crops rotting on the 
hill-sides. The fever of the gamble was in eruption, breaking 
out in unexpected places — the station-master, the porters, the 
flymen, all had their bit on, and notwithstanding the enormous 
favouritism of two other horses in the race — Prisoner and 
Stoke Newington — Silver Braid had advanced considerably 
in the betting. Reports of trials won had reached Brighton, 
and not more than five-and-twenty to one could now be 
obtained. 

The discovery that the Demon had gone up several pounds 
in weight had introduced the necessary alloy into the mintage 
of their happiness, and the most real consternation prevailed; 
and the strictest investigation was made as to when and how 
he had obtained the quantities of food required to produce 
such a mass of adipose tissue. Then the Gaffer had the boy 
upstairs and administered to him a huge dose of salts, seeing him 
swallow every drop; and when the effects of the medicine had 



ESTHER WATERS. 45 

worn off he was sent for a walk to Portslade in two large over- 
coats, and was accompanied by William, whose long legs led 
the way so effectively. On his return a couple of nice feather 
beds were ready, and Mr. Leopold and Mr. Swindles them- 
selves laid him between them, and when they noticed that he 
was beginning to cease to perspire Mr. Leopold made him a 
nice cup of hot tea. 

"That's the way the Gaffer used to get the flesh off in the 
old days when he rode the winner at Liverpool." 

" It is the Demon's own fault," said Mr. Swindles ; " if he 
hadn't been so greedy he wouldn't have had to sweat, and we 
should 'ave been spared a deal of bother and anxiety." 

" Greedy ! " murmured the little boy, in whom the warm tea 
had induced a new perspiration; "I haven't had what you 
might call a dinner for the last three months. I think I'll 
chuck the whole thing." 

"Not until this race is over," said Mr. Swindles. " Supposing 
I was to pass the warming-pan down these 'ere sheets. What 
do you say, Mr. Leopold? They are beginning to feel a 
bit cold." 

" Cold ! I 'ope you'll never go to a 'otter place. For God's 
sake, Mr. Leopold, don't let him come near me with the 
warming-pan, or else he'll melt the little flesh that's left off 
me." 

"You 'ad better not make such a fuss," said Mr. Leopold; 
" if you don't do what you are told, you'll have to take salts 
again and go for another walk with William." 

" If we don't warm up them sheets 'e'll dry up," said Mr. 
Swindles. 

"No I won't; I'm teeming." 

" Be a good boy, and you shall have a nice cut of mutton 
when you get up," said Mr. Leopold. 

" How much ? Two slices ? " 

11 Well, you see, we can't promise ; it all depends on how 
much has come off, and 'aving once got it hoff, we don't want 
to put it on again." 

"I never did 'ear such rot," said Swindles. "In my time 
a boy's feelings weren't considered — one did what one con- 
sidered good for them." 

Mr. Leopold strove to engage the Demon's attention with 
compliments regarding his horsemanship in the City and Sub. 
while Mr. Swindles raised the bed-clothes. 



46 ESTHER WATERS. 

"Oh, Mr. Swindles, you are burning me." 

" For 'eaven's sake don't let him start out from under the 
bed like that ! Can't yer 'old him ? Burning you ! I never 
even touched you with it — it was the sheet that you felt." 

" Then the sheet is as 'ot as the bloody fire. Will yer leave 
off?" 

" What ! a Demon like you afraid of a little touch of 'eat ; 
wouldn't 'ave believed it unless I 'ad 'eardjt with my own ears," 
said Mr. Leopold. " Come, now, do yer want to ride the crack 
at Goodwood or do yer not ? If you do, remain quiet, and let 
us finish taking off the last couple of pounds." 

"It is the last couple of pounds that takes it out of one; 
the first lot comes off jest like butter," said the boy, rolling 
out of the way of the pan. " I know what it will be — I shall 
be so weak that I shall jest ride a stinking bad race." 

Mr. Leopold and Mr. Swindles exchanged glances. It was 
clear they thought that there was something in the last words 
of the fainting Demon, and the pan was withdrawn. But 
when the boy was got into the scale again it was found that 
he was not yet nearly the right weight, and the Gaffer ordered 
another effort to be made. The Demon pleaded that his feet 
were sore, but he was nevertheless sent off to Portslade in 
charge of the redoubtable William. 

As the last pounds came off the Demon's little carcass Mr. 
Leopold's face resumed a more tranquil expression, and it 
began to be whispered that instead of hedging any part of 
his money he would stand it all out. One day a market 
gardener brought up word that he had seen Mr. Leopold 
going into Brighton. 

"Old Watkins isn't good enough for him, that's about it. 
If Silver Braid wins, Woodview will see very little more of Mr. 
Leopold. He'll be for buying one of them big houses on 
the sea road and keeping his own trap," 



ESTHER WATERS. A7 



VIII. 

The great day was now fast approaching, and the Gaffer had 
promised to drive them in a drag to Goodwood. There was 
no necessity for any more rain, the colt's legs remained quite 
sound, and three days of sunshine would make all the difference 
in their sum of happiness. In the kitchen Mrs. Latch and 
Esther had been busy for some time with chickens and pies 
and jellies, and in the passage there were cases packed with 
fruit and wine. The dressmaker had come from Worthing, 
and for several days the young ladies had not left her. And 
one fine morning, very early — about eight o'clock — the wheelers 
were backed into the drag that had come from Brighton, and 
the yard resounded with the blaring of the horn. Ginger was 
practising under his sister's window. "You'll be late, you'll be 
late ! " he cried. 

With the exception of two young gentlemen, who had come 
at the invitation of the young ladies, it was quite a family party. 
Miss Mary sat beside her father on the box, and looked very 
charming in white and blue — Peggy's black hair seemed blacker 
than ever under a white silk parasol, which she waved negli- 
gently above her as she stood up calling and talking to every 
one until the Gaffer told her angrily to sit down, as he was 
going to start. Then William and the coachman let go the 
leaders' heads, and running side by side swung themselves into 
their seats. A glimpse was caught of Mr. Leopold's sallow 
profile amid the boxes and the mackintoshes that filled the 
inside of the coach. 

" Oh, William did look that handsome in those beautiful new 
clothes ! . . . Every one said so — Sarah and Margaret and 
Miss Grover. I'm sorry you did not come out to see him." 

Mrs. Latch made no answer, and Esther remembered how 
she hated her son to wear livery, and thought that she had 
perhaps made a mistake in saying that Mrs. Latch should have 



48 ESTHER WATERS. 

come out to see him. " Perhaps this will make her dislike me 
again," thought the girl. Mrs. Latch moved about rapidly, and 
she opened and closed the oven; then, raising her eyes to the 
window and seeing the other women were still standing in the 
yard and safely out of hearing, she said — 

" Do you think that he has bet much on this race ? " 

" Oh, how should I know, Mrs. Latch ? . . . But the horse 
is certain to win." 

" Certain to win ! I have heard that tale before; they are 
always certain to win. So they have won you round to their 
way of thinking, have they ? " said Mrs. Latch, straightening 
her back. 

" I know very well indeed that it is not right to bet; but 
what can I do, a poor girl like me ? If it hadn't been for 
William I never would have taken a number in that sweep- 
stakes." 

" Do you like him very much, then? " 

" He has been very kind to me, he was kind when " 

"Yes, I know, when I was unkind. I was unkind to you 
when you first came. You don't know all. I was much 

troubled at that time, and somehow I did not but there is 

no ill-feeling? . . . I'll make it up to you — I'll teach you how 
to be a cook." 

" Oh, Mrs. Latch, I am sure " 

" Never mind that. When you went out to walk with him 
the other night, did he tell you that he had many bets on the 
race ? " 

11 He talked about the race, like every one else, but he did 
not tell me what bets he had on." 

"No, they never do do that. . , . But you'll not tell him 
that I asked you ? " 

" No, Mrs. Latch, I promise." 

" It would do no good, he'd only be angry; it would only set 
him against me. I am afraid that nothing will stop him now. 
Once they get a taste for it, it is like drink. I wish he was 
married — that might get him out of it. Some woman who 
would have an influence over him, some strong-minded woman. 
I thought once that you were strong-minded " 

At that moment Sarah and Grover entered the kitchen talk- 
ing loudly. They asked Mrs. Latch how soon they could have 
dinner — the sooner the better, for the Saint had told them that 
they were free to go out for the day, just to try to be back 



ESTHER WATERS. 49 

before eight, that was all. The Saint was a first-rate sort ; she 
had said that she did not want any one to attend on her, that 
she would get herself a bit of lunch in the dining-room. There 
were not many mistresses like that. Mrs. Latch allowed Esther 
to hurry on the dinner, and by one o'clock they were all 
finished. Sarah and Margaret were going into Brighton to do 
some shopping, Grover was going to Worthing to spend the 
afternoon with the wife of one of the guards of the Brighton 
and South Coast railway. Mrs. Latch went upstairs to lie 
down. So it grew lonelier and lonelier in the kitchen. 
Esther's sewing fell out of her hands, and she wondered what 
she should do. . . . She might go down to the beach. . . . 
She put on her hat. . . . She had not seen the sea since she 
was a little girl, and remembered the tall ships that came into 
the harbour, sail falling over sail, and the tall ships that floated 
out of the harbour, sail rising over sail, catching the breeze as 
they went aloft. 

A suspension bridge, ornamented with straight-tailed lions, 
took her over the weedy river. She crossed some pieces of 
rough grass and climbed the great shingle bank. In front of 
her the sea lay dull as a caged beast, licking its shingle. The 
sky throbbed like a furnace, and sea-poppies grew under the 
wheels of a decaying bathing machine. Esther loved the sea, 
but the sea here was lonely as a prison. She looked at the 
treeless coast with its chain of towns, and her thoughts suddenly 
reverted to William. She remembered all that evening, from the 
very second when she saw him coming through the hunting gate 
to the moment when they listened outside in the hush of the 
evening to Silver Braid moving in his box. With his arm about 
her, William had explained to her that if the horse won she 
would take seven shillings out of the sweepstakes. She knew 
now that William did not care about Sarah; and that he should 
care for her had given a sudden and unexpected meaning to 
her existence. Her day-dream floated, becoming softer and 
more delicate. At last it vanished in summer sleep. 

When she opened her eyes she saw flights of white clouds 
— white up above, rose-coloured as they approached the west — 
and a tall, melancholy woman. The woman sat at a little 
distance. Esther thought she recognised her. She got up 
and walked towards her. 

" Good evening, Mrs. Randal," said Esther, glad to find 
some one to speak to. " I've been asleep." 

4 



50 ESTHER WATERS. 

" Good evening, Miss. You're from Woodview, I think ? " 

" Yes, I'm the kitchen-maid. They've gone to the races; 
there was nothing to do, so I came down here." 

At the end of a long silence Mrs. Randal faintly hazarded 
the remark that they had had a fine day at Goodwood. Esther 
said that it must be lovely there, and the conversation paused 
again. 

Mrs. Randal's lips moved as if she were going to say some- 
thing. But she did not speak. Soon after she rose to her feet. 
" I think that it must be getting near tea-time ; I must be 
going. You might come in and have a cup of tea with me, if 
you're not in a hurry back to Woodview." 

Esther was surprised at so much condescension, and in 
silence the two women descended through the meadows that 
lay between the shingle bank and the river. Over the long 
spider-legged bridge trains had passed, scattering in their 
noisy passage sensation of the news from Goodwood. The 
news seemed to be borne along shore in the dust, and as if 
troubled by prescience of the news, Mrs. Randal said as she 
unlocked the cottage door — 

" It is all over now. The people in those trains know well 
enough which has won." 

"Yes, I suppose they know, and somehow I feel as if I 
knew too. I feel as if Silver Braid had won." 

Mrs. Randal's home was gaunt as herself. Everything 
looked as if it had been scraped, and the spare furniture 
expressed hunger and loneliness. There were still a few lumps 
of sugar in the bowl. Every moment it seemed that she must 
burst into tears. She dropped a plate as she laid the table, 
and stood pathetically looking at the pieces. When Esther 
asked for a teaspoon she gave way utterly. 

" I haven't one to give you, I had forgotten that they were 
gone ; I should have remembered and not asked you to tea." 

" It don't matter, Mrs. Randal, I can stir up my tea with 
anything — a knitting-needle will do very well " 

" I should have remembered and not asked you back to tea; 
but I was so miserable, and it is so lonely sitting in this house, 
that I could stand it no longer. . . . Talking to you saved me 
from thinking, and I did not want to think until this race was 
over. If Silver Braid is beaten we are ruined. ... I don't 
"know what will become of us. For fifteen years I have borne 
up; I have lived on little at the best of times, and very often 



ESTHER WATERS. 5* 

have gone without; but that is nothing compared to the 
anxiety — to see him come in with a white face, to see him drop 
into a chair and hear him say, ■ Beaten a head on the post,' or 
• Broke down, otherwise he would have won in a canter.' I 
have always tried to be a good wife and tried to console him, 
and to do the best when he said, ' I have lost half a year's 
wages, I don't know how we shall pull through.' I have borne 
with ten thousand times more than I can tell you. The suffer- 
ings of a gambler's wife cannot be told. . . . What do you 
think my feelings must have been when one night I heard him 
calling me out of my sleep, when I heard him say, ' I can't die, 
Annie, without bidding you good-bye'? That was when Harle- 
quin was beaten in the Liverpool Cup. ' I can only hope that 
you will be able to pull through, and I know that the Gaffer 
will do all he can for you, but he has been hit awful hard too. 
You mustn't think too badly of me, Annie, but I have had 
such a bad time that I couldn't put up with it any longer, and 
I thought the best thing I could do would be to go.' That's 
just how he talked; nice words to hear your husband speak 
in your ear through the darkness ! There was no time to 
send for the doctor, so I jumped out of bed, put the kettle 
on, and made him drink glass after glass of salt and water. 
At last he brought up the laudanum." 

Esther listened to the melancholy woman, and remembered 
the little man whom she saw every day so orderly, so precise, 
so sedate, so methodical, so unemotional, into whose life she 
thought no faintest emotion had ever entered — and this was 
the truth. 

" So long as I only had myself to think of I didn't mind ; 
but now there are the children growing up. He should think 
of them. Heaven only knows what will become of them. . . . 
John is as kind a husband as ever was if it weren't for that one 
fault ; but he cannot resist having something on any more than 
a drunkard can resist the bar-room." 

" Winner, winner, winner of the Stewards' Cup ! " 

The women started to their feet. When they got into the 
street the boy was far away ; besides, neither had a penny to 
pay for the paper. They wandered aimlessly about the town. 
At last Esther resolved to make an end to their martyrdom. 
She proposed to ask at the " Red Lion " who had won. Mrs. 
Randal begged her to refrain, urging that she was unable to 
bear the tidings should it be evil. 



52 ESTHER WATERS. 

11 Silver Braid," the barman answered. The girl rushed 
through the doors. " It is all right, it is all right ; he has 
won ! " 

Soon after the little children in the lane were calling forth 
" Silver Braid won." And overcome by the excitement Esther 
walked along the sea-road to meet the drag. She walked on 
and on until the sound of the horn came through the crimson 
evening and she saw the leaders trotting in a cloud of dust. 
Ginger was driving, and he shouted to her, " He won ! " The 
Gaffer waved the horn and shouted, "He won ! " Peggy waved 
her broken parasol and shouted, " He won ! " Esther looked 
at William. He leaned over the back seat and shouted, " He 
won!" She had forgotten all about late dinner. What would 
Mrs. Latch say ? On such a day as this she would say nothing. 



ESTHER WATERS. 53 



IX. 

Nearly everything came down untouched. Eating and drink- 
ing had been in progress almost all day on the course, and 
Esther had finished washing-up before nine, and had laid the 
cloth in the servants' hall for supper. But if little was eaten 
upstairs, plenty was eaten downstairs ; the mutton was finished 
in a trice, and Mrs. Latch had to fetch from the larder what 
remained of a beefsteak pudding. Even then they were not 
satisfied, and fine inroads were made into a new piece of 
cheese. Beer, according to orders, was served without limit, 
and four bottles of port were sent down so that the health of 
the horse might be adequately drunk. 

While assuaging their hunger the men had exchanged many 
allusive remarks regarding the Demon's bad ending and how 
nearly he had thrown the race away. The meal being now 
over, and there being nothing to do but to sit and talk, Mr. 
Leopold, encouraged by William, entered on an elaborate and 
technical account of the race. The women listened, playing 
with a rind of cheese ; occasionally glancing at the cheese 
itself, wondering if they could manage another slice. The men 
sipped their port wine and puffed at their pipes, William 
listening most avidly of all, enjoying each sporting term, and 
ingeniously reminding Mr. Leopold of some detail whenever 
he seemed disposed to shorten his narrative. The criticism of 
the Demon's horsemanship took a long while, for by a variety 
of suggestive remarks William led Mr. Leopold into reminis- 
cences of the skill of certain famous jockeys in the first half 
of the century. These digressions wearied Sarah and Grover, 
and their thoughts wandered to the dresses that had been 
worn that day, and the lady's-maid remembered she would 
hear all that interested her that night in the young ladies' 
rooms. At last, losing all patience, Sarah declared that 
she didn't care what Cheffney had said when he just managed 



54 ESTHER WATERS. 

to squeeze his horse's head in front in the last dozen yards, she 
wanted to know what the Demon had done to so nearly lose 
the race — had he mistook the winning-post and pulled up? 
William looked at her contemptuously, and would have 
answered rudely but at that moment Mr. Leopold began to 
tell the last instructions that the Gaffer had given the Demon. 
The orders were that the Demon should go right up to the 
leaders before they reached the half-mile, and remain there. 
Of course if he found that he was a stone or more in hand, as 
the Gaffer expected, he might come away pretty well as he 
liked, for the greatest danger was that the horse might get shut 
out or might show temper and turn it up. 

"Well," said Mr. Leopold, "there were two false starts, and 
Silver Braid must have galloped a couple of 'undred yards 
afore the Demon could stop him. There wasn't twopence 
halfpenny worth of strength in him — pulling off those three or 
four pounds pretty well finished him. He'll never be able to 
ride that weight again. . . . He said afore starting that he felt 
weak; you took him along too smartly from Portslade the last 
time you went there." 

" When he went by himself he'd stop playing marbles with 
the boys round Southwick public-house." 

"If there had been another false start I think it would have 
been all up with us. The Gaffer was quite pale, and he stood 
there not taking his glasses from his eyes. There were over 
thirty of them, so you can imagine how hard it was to get them 
into line. However, at the third attempt they were got 
straight and away they came, a black line stretching right 
across the course. Presently the black cap and jacket came to 
the front, and not very long after a murmur went round, 'Silver 
Braid wins.' Never saw anything like it in all my life. He 
was three lengths a'ead, and the others were pulling off. 
■ Damn the boy ; he'll win by twenty lengths,' said the Gaffer, 
without removing his glasses. But when within a few yards of 
the stand " 

At that moment the bell rang. Mr. Leopold said, " There ! 
they are wanting their tea ; I must go and get it." 

" Drat their tea," said Margaret; "they can wait. Finish up; 
tell us how he won." 

Mr. Leopold looked round, and seeing every eye fixed on 
him he considered how much remained of the story, and with 
quickened speech continued, " Well, approaching the stand, I 



ESTHER WATERS. 55 

noticed that Silver Braid was not going quite so fast, and at that 
very instant the Demon looked over his shoulder, and seeing 
he was losing ground he took up the whip. But the moment 
he struck him the horse swerved right across the course, right 
under the stand, running like a rat from underneath the whip. 
The Demon caught him one across the nose with his left hand, 
but seeing what was 'appening, the Tinman, who was on 
Bulfinch, sat down and began riding. I felt as if there was a 
lump of ice down my back," and Mr. Leopold lowered his 
voice, and his face became grave as he recalled that perilous 
moment. Then, remembering the ultimate triumph, it lighted 
up. " I thought it was all over," he said, " and the Gaffer 
thought the same; I never saw a man go so deadly pale; it was all 
the work of a moment, but that moment was more than a year — 
at least so it seemed to me. Well, about half-way up the rails the 
Tinman had got level with the Demon. It was ten to one that 
Silver Braid would turn it up, or that the boy wouldn't 'ave the 
strength to ride out so close a finish as it was bound to be. I 
thought then of the way you used to take him along from 
Portslade, and I'd have given something to 've put a pound or 
two of flesh into his thighs and arms. The Tinman was riding 
splendid, getting every ounce and something more out of Bul- 
finch.' The Demon, too weak to do much, was sitting nearly 
quite still. It looked as if it was all up with us, but somehow 
Silver Braid took to galloping of his own accord, and 'aving 
such a mighty lot in 'and he won on the post by a 'ead — a 
short 'ead. ... I never felt that queer in my life, and the 
Gaffer was no better, but I said to him, just afore the numbers 
went up, 'It is all right, sir, he's just done it,' and when the 
right number went up I thought everything was on the dance, 
going for swim like. By golly, it was a near thing ! " At the 
end of a long silence Mr. Leopold said, shaking himself out of 
his thoughts, " Now I must go and get their tea," 

Esther sat at the end of the table, her cheek leaned on her 
hand. By turning her eyes she could see William. Sarah 
noticed one of these stealthy backward glances and a look of 
anger crossed her face, and calling to William she asked him 
when the sweepstakes money would be divided. The question 
startled William from a reverie of small bets, and he answered 
that there was no reason why the sweepstakes money should 
not be divided at once. 

" There was twelve. That's right, isn't it ? — Sarah, Margaret, 



$6 ESTHER WATERS. 

Esther, Miss Grover, Mr. Leopold, myself, the four boys, and 
Swindles and Wall. . . . Well, it was agreed that seven should 
go to the first, three to the second, and two to the third. No 
one got the third 'orse, so I suppose the two shillings that 
would have gone to him 'ad better be given to the first." 

" Given to the first ! Why, that's Esther ! Why should she 
get it ? . . . What do you mean ? No third ! Wasn't Soap- 
bubble third ? " 

" Yes, Soap-bubble was third right enough, but he wasn't in 
the sweeps." 

"And why wasn't he ? " 

" Because he wasn't among the eleven first favourites. We 
took them as they were quoted in the betting-list published in 
the Sportsman." 

" How was it, then, that you put in Silver Braid ? " 

" Yer needn't get so angry, Sarah, no one's cheating; it is all 
above board. If you don't believe us, you'd better accuse us 
straight out." 

"What I want to know is, why Silver Braid was included? — 
he wasn't among the eleven first favourites." 

"Oh, don't be so stupid, Sarah; you know very well that we 
agreed to make an exception in favour of our own 'orse — a nice 
sweep it would 'ave been if we 'adn't included Silver Braid." 

" And suppose," she exclaimed, tightening her brows, " that 
Soap-bubble had won, what would have become of our 
money ? " 

" It would have been returned — every one would have got 
his shilling back." 

" And now I am to get three shillings, and that little Metho- 
dist or Plymouth Brethren there, whatever you like to call her, 
is to get nine ! " said Sarah, with a light of inspiration flashing 
through her beer-clouded mind. "Why should the two 
shillings that would have gone to Soap-bubble, if any one 'ad 
drawn 'im, go to the first 'orse rather than to the second ? " 

William hesitated, unable for the moment to give a good 
reason why the extra two shillings should be given to Silver 
Braid; and Sarah, perceiving her advantage, deliberately 
accused him of wishing to favour Esther. 

M Don't we know that you went out to walk with her, and 
that you remained out till nearly eleven at night; that's why 
you want all the money to go to her; you don't take us for a 
lot of fools, do you ? Never in any place I ever was in before 



ESTHER WATERS. 57 

would such a thing be allowed — the footman going out with 
the kitchen-maid, and one of the Dissenting lot ! " 

"I am not going to have my religion insulted ! How dare 
you ? " And Esther started up from her place ; but William 
was too quick for her. He grasped her arm. 

" Never mind what Sarah says." 

" Never mind what I says ! . . . a thing like that, who never 
was in a situation before ; no doubt taken out of some 'ouse. 
Rescue work, I think they call it " 

" She shan't insult me — no, she shan't ! " said Esther, 
tremulous with passion. 

"A nice sort of person to insult!" said Sarah, her arms 
akimbo. 

M Now look you here, Sarah Tucker," said Mrs. Latch, start- 
ing from her seat, " I'm not going to see that girl aggravated, 
so that she may do what she shouldn't do, and give you an 
opportunity of going to the missis with tales about her. . . . 
Come away, Esther, come with me. Let them go on betting 
if they will; I never saw no good come of it." 

" That's all very fine, mother ; but it must be settled, and we 
have to divide the money." 

"I don't want your money," said Esther, sullenly; "I 
wouldn't take it." 

"What blooming nonsense! You must take your money. 
Ah, here's Mr. Leopold ! he'll decide it." 

Mr. Leopold said at once that the money that under other 
circumstances would have gone to the third horse must be 
divided between the first and second ; but Sarah refused to 
accept this decision. Finally, it was proposed that the matter 
should be referred to the editor of the Sportsman ; and as 
Sarah still remained deaf to argument, William offered her 
choice between the Sportsman and the Sporting Life. 

"Look here," said William, getting between the women, 
" this evening isn't one for fighting ; we have all won our little 
bit, and ought to be thankful. The only difference between 
you is two shillings that were to have gone to the third horse if 
any one had drawn him ; Mr. Leopold says it ought to be 
divided; you, Sarah, won't accept his decision; we have 
offered to write to the Sportsman, and Esther has offered to 
give up her claim. Now, in the name of God, tell us what do 
you want ? " 

Sarah hesitated a moment ; she raised some wholly irrelevant 



58 ESTHER WATERS. 

issue, and after a protracted argument with William, largely 
composed of insulting remarks, she declared that she wasn't 
going to take the two shillings, nor yet one of them ; let them 
give her the three she had won — that was all she wanted. 
William looked at her, shrugged his shoulders, and, after 
declaring that it was his conviction that women wasn't in- 
tended to have nothing to do with horse-racing, he took up his 
pipe and tobacco-pouch. 

" Good-night, ladies, I have had enough of you for to-night ; 
I am going to finish my smoke in the pantry. Don't scratch 
all your 'air out ; leave enough for me to put into a locket." 

When the pantry door was shut, and the men had smoked 
some moments in silence, William said — 

" Do you think he has any chance of winning the Chester- 
field Cup?" 

" He'll win in a canter if he'll only run straight. If I was 
the Gaffer I think I'd put up a bigger boy. He'll 'ave to carry 
a seven-pound penalty, and Johnnie Scott could ride that 
weight." 

The likelihood that a horse will bolt with one jockey and run 
straight with another was argued passionately, and illustrated 
with interesting reminiscences drawn from that remote past 
when Mr. Leopold was the Gaffer's private servant — before 
either of them had married — when life was composed entirely 
of horse-racing and prize-fighting. But cutting short his tale 
of how he had met one day the Birmingham Chicken in a 
booth, and, not knowing who he was, had offered to fight him, 
Mr. Leopold confessed he did not know how to act — he had a 
bet of fifty pounds to ten shillings for the double event : should 
he stand it out or lay some of it off? William thrilled with 
admiration. What a 'ead, and who'd think it ? that little 'ead, 
hardly bigger than a cocoanut ! What a brain there was inside! 
Fifty pounds to ten shillings ; should he stand it out or hedge 
some of it? Who could tell better than Mr. Leopold? It 
would of course be a pity to break into the fifty. What did 
ten shillings matter ? Mr. Leopold was big enough a man to 
stand the racket of it even if it didn't come back. William 
felt very proud of being consulted, for Mr. Leopold had never 
before been known to let any one know what he had on a 
race. 

Next day they walked into Shoreham together. The bar of 
the "Red Lion" was full of people. Above the thronging 



ESTHER WATERS. 59 

crowd the voice of the barman and the customers were heard 
calling, " Two glasses of Burton, glass of bitter, three of whisky 
cold." There were railway porters, sailors, boatmen, shop- 
boys, and market gardeners. They had all won something, and 
had come for their winnings. 

Old Watkins, an elderly man with white whiskers and a 
curving stomach, had just run in to wet his whistle. He walked 
back to his office with Mr. Leopold and William. His office 
was a little corner shelved out of some outhouses into which 
you could walk from the street. 

"Talk of favourites!" he said; "I'd sooner pay over the 
three first favourites than this one — thirty, twenty to one 
starting price, and the whole town on to him ; it's enough 
to break any man ! . . . Now, my men, what is it ? " he said, 
turning to the railway porters. 

"Just the trifle me and my mates 'ave won over that 'ere 
'orse." 

"What was it?" 

"A shilling at five-and-twenty to one." 

" Look it out, Joey. Is it all right ? " 

" Yes, sir ; yes, sir," said the clerk. 

And old Watkins slid his hand into his breeches pocket, 
and it came forth filled with gold and silver. 

u Come, come, mates, we are bound to 'ave a bet on him for 
the Chesterfield — we can afford it now ; what say yer, a shilling 
each?" 

"Done for a shilling each," said the under-porter ; "finest 
'orse in training. . . . What price, Musser Watkins ? " 

" Ten to one." 

"Right, 'ere's my bob." 

The other porters gave their shillings; Watkins slid them 
back into his pocket, and called to Joey to book the bet. 

" And now, what is yours, Mr. Latch ? " 

William stated the various items. He had had a bet of ten 
shillings to one on one race and had lost ; he had had half- 
a-crown on another and had lost ; in a word, three-and- 
sixpence had to be subtracted from his winnings on Silver 
Braid. These amounted to more than five pounds. William's 
face flushed with pleasure, and the world seemed to be his 
when he slipped four sovereigns and a handful of silver into his 
waistcoat pocket. Should he put a sovereign of his winnings 
on Silver Braid for the Chesterfield? Half-a-sovereign was 



60 ESTHER WATERS. 

enough ! . . . The danger of risking a sovereign— a whole 
sovereign — frightened him. 

" Now, Mr. Latch," said old Watkins, " if you want to back 
anything, make up your mind; there are a good many besides 
yourself who have business with me." 

William hesitated, and then said he'd take ten half-sovereigns 
to one against Silver Braid. 

" Ten half-sovereigns to one ? " said old Watkins. 

William murmured " Yes," and Joey booked the bet. 

Mr. Leopold's business demanded more consideration. The 
fat betting man and the scarecrow little butler walked aside 
and talked, both apparently indifferent to the impatience of a 
number of small customers; sometimes Joey called in his 
shrill cracked voice if he might lay ten half-crowns to one, or 
five shillings to one, as the case might be. Watkins would 
then raise his eyes from Mr. Leopold's face and nod or shake 
his head, or perhaps would sign with his fingers what odds he 
was prepared to lay. With no one else would Watkins talk 
so lengthily, showing so much deference. Mr. Leopold had 
the knack of investing all he did with an air of mystery, and 
the deepest interest was evinced in this conversation. At last, 
as if dismissing matters of first importance, the two men 
approached William, and he heard Watkins pressing Mr. 
Leopold to lay off some of that fifty pounds. 

"I take twelve to one . . . twenty-four pounds to two. 
Shall I book it?" 

Mr. Leopold shook his head, and, smiling enigmatically, 
said he must be getting back. William was much impressed, 
and congratulated himself on his courage in taking the ten 
half-sovereigns to one. Mr. Leopold knew a thing or two ; he 
had been talking to the Gaffer that morning, and if it hadn't 
been all right he would have laid off some of the money. 
The second victory of Silver Braid nearly ruined old Watkins. 
He declared that he had never been so hard hit, but as he did 
not ask for time and continued to draw notes and gold and 
silver in handfuls from his capacious pockets, his lamentations 
only served to stimulate the happiness of the fortunate backers, 
and, listening to the sweet note of self ringing in their hearts, 
they returned to the public-house to drink the health of the 
horse. 

Next day one of the Gaffer's two-year-olds won a race, 
and the day after Silver Braid won the Chesterfield Cup. 



ESTHER WATERS. 6 1 

So the flood of gold continued to roll into the little town, 
decrepit and colourless by its high shingle beach and long 
reaches of muddy river. The dear gold jingled merrily in the 
pockets, quickening the steps, lightening the heart, curling lips 
with smiles, opening lips with laughter. The dear gold came 
falling softly, sweetly as rain, soothing the hard lives of working 
folk. Lives pressed with toil lifted up and began to dream 
again. The dear gold was like an opiate, it wiped away 
memories of hardship and sorrow, it showed life in a lighter 
and merrier guise, and the folk laughed at their fears for the 
morrow and wondered how they could have thought life so 
hard and relentless. The dear gold was pleasing as a bird 
on the branch, as a flower on the stem ; the tune it sang was 
sweet, the colour it flaunted was bright. 

The trade of former days had never brought the excitement 
and the fortune that this horse's hoofs had done. The dust 
they had thrown up had fallen a happy, golden shower upon 
Shoreham. In every corner and crevice of life the glitter 
appeared. That fine red dress on the builder's wife, and the 
feathers that the girls flaunt at their sweethearts, the loud 
trousers on the young man's legs, the cigar in his mouth — all is 
Goodwood gold. It glitters in that girl's ears, and on this 
girl's finger. 

It was said that the town of Shoreham had won two thousand 
pounds on the race ; it was said that Mr. Leopold had won two 
hundred; it was said that William Latch had won fifty; it 
was said that Wall, the coachman, had won five-and-twenty ; it 
was said that the Gaffer had won forty thousand pounds. For 
ten miles round nothing was talked of but the wealth of the 
Barfields, and, drawn like moths to a candle, the county 
came to call, even the most distant and reserved left cards, 
others walked up and down the lawn with the Gaffer listen- 
ing to his slightest word. A golden prosperity shone upon 
the yellow Italian house. Carriages passed under its elm-trees 
at every hour and swept round the evergreen oaks. Rumour 
said that large alterations were going to be made, so that larger 
and grander entertainments might be given ; an Italian garden 
was spoken of, balustrades and terraces, stables were in course 
of construction, many more race-horses were bought; they 
arrived daily, and the slender creatures, their dark eyes glancing 
out of the sight-holes in their cloth hoods, walked up from 



62 ESTHER WATERS. 

Drink and expensive living, dancing and singing upstairs and 
downstairs, and the jollifications culminated in a servants' ball 
given at the Shoreham Gardens. All the Woodview servants, 
excepting Mrs. Latch, were there ; likewise all the servants from 
Mr. Northcote's, and those from Sir George Preston's, two 
leading county families. A great number of servants had come 
from West Brighton, and Lancing, and Worthing — altogether 
between two and three hundred. " Evening dress is indispens- 
able," was printed on the cards. By this means the butlers, 
footmen, cooks, ladies'-maids, housemaids, and housekeepers 
hoped to keep the ball select. This restriction seemed to con- 
demn Esther to play again the part of Cinderella. 



ESTHER WATERS. 6$ 



But it had been found impossible to restrict the ball to those 
who possessed or could obtain an evening suit, and plenty of 
check trousers and red neckties were hopping about. Among 
the villagers many a touch suggested costume. A young girl 
had borrowed her grandmother's wedding dress, and a young 
man wore a canary-coloured waistcoat and a blue coastguards- 
man coat of old time. These touches of fancy and personal 
taste divided the villagers from the household servants. The 
butlers seemed on the watch for side dishes, and the valets 
suggested hair-brushes and hot water. Cooks trailed black 
silk dresses adorned with wide collars and fastened with gold 
brooches containing portraits of their late husbands. At the 
end of the room there was a circular buffet, around which the 
men had gathered. They turned, however, from the buffet 
when Esther entered. Miss Mary had given her a white 
muslin, a square-cut bodice with sleeves reaching to the elbows 
and a blue sash tied round the waist. Many remarked as 
she passed, "A nice, pretty girl." William was waiting, and 
she went away with him on the hop of a vigorous polka. 

Many of the dancers had gone to get cool in the gardens, 
but a few couples had begun to whirl, the women borne along 
by force, the men poising their legs into curious geometrical 
positions. 

Mr. Leopold was very busy dragging men away from the 
circular buffet — they must dance whether they knew how or 
not,, "the Gaffer has told me particlar to see that the 'gals' 
all had partners, and just look down that 'ere room, 'alf of that 
lot 'aven't been on their legs yet. 'Ere's a partner for you," 
and the butler pulled a young gamekeeper towards a young 
girl who had just arrived. She entered slowly, her hands 
clasped across her bosom, her eyes fixed on the ground, and the 
strangeness of the spectacle caused Mr. Leopold to pause. 



64 ESTHER WATERS. 

Presently it was whispered that she had never worn a low dress 
before. Grover came to the rescue of her modesty with a 
pocket handkerchief. 

" 'Ow do you manage to keep dry this weather ? " asked a 
young woman. 

44 Dry ! " said her young man. " I'm soaking." And draw- 
ing a red handkerchief from his velvet coat he mopped his face. 

14 May I have the pleasure of this dance ? " said young Mr. 
Preston, Sir George's eldest son. 

44 Lor', Mr. Preston, I'm that 'ot ! . . . but I don't mind a 
turn with you." 

The fine shirt fronts set off with rich pearls, the lavendei 
gloved hands, the delicate faces so expressive of ease and 
leisure, made Ginger's two friends — young Mr. Preston and 
young Mr. Northcote — noticeable among this menial, work-a- 
day crowd. Ginger loved the upper circles, and now he romped 
the polka in the most approved London fashion, his elbows 
advanced like a yacht's bowsprit, and, his coat-tails flying, he 
dashed through a group of tradespeople who were bobbing up 
and down hardly advancing at all. 

The young man in the velvet coat shrugged his shoulders : 
44 They're all alike, nothing'll do them but a swell. Look at 
your kitchen-maid, she is with Ginger ; they know more of each 
other than we think for." 

Before William had time to reply Sarah pointed to Esther, 
who was coming back on Ginger's arm. Didn't William think 
they were just enjoying their little selves ? . . . With a loud 
laugh she passed away. The dance had ended and the 
crowd pressed towards the doorways, Ginger touched young 
Northcote on the shoulder, and taking a ceremonious leave of 
his partner, left her to William. 

41 A nice way you are getting yourself talked of! " 

44 What do you mean ? " 

"Why, the way you have been carrying on with Ginger." 

44 Who has been talking about me — Sarah ? " 

" She is not the only one." 

44 And you believe them ? " 

44 1 tell you straight, I don't want to have to do with a girl 
who goes after gentlemen." 

Esther's face changed expression, but she continued to 
defend herself for a few moments longer. Then she said — 

44 Very well, then, I don't want to have to do with those who 






ESTHER WATERS. 65 

think such wickedness. ... I wish I hadn't come here, and 
I shall dance no more with you or anybody else." 

As Esther was being spoken of as the belle of the ball and 
had danced with young Mr. Preston, Grover called her and 
asked her why she was not dancing. Esther answered that 
she was tired, and lapsed into morose contemplation of the 
scene. 

" Come, the next polka, just to show there is no ill feeling." 
Half-a-dozen times William repeated his demand. At last she 
said — 

" You've spoilt all my pleasure in the dancing." 

" I'm sorry if I've done that, Esther. I was jealous, that's 
all." 

" Jealous ! What was you jealous for ? What do it matter 
what people think, so long as I know I am doing no wrong ? " 

William did not answer, and in silence they walked into the 
garden. The night was warm, even oppressive, and the moon 
hung like a balloon above the trees, and often the straying 
revellers stopped to consider the markings now so plain upon 
its disc. There were arbours, artificial ruins, darkling pathways; 
and the mysterious light streaming through the open spaces 
made the garden seem as if enchanted. William showed 
Esther the theatre and explained its purpose. And she could 
not believe that she was not dreaming when they suddenly stood 
on the borders of a beautiful lake full of the shadows of tall 
trees. At one part, the narrowest end, it was crossed by a 
wooden bridge. Esther and William stopped to admire. 

" How still the water is ; and the stars they is that 
lovely ! " 

" You should see the gardens about three o'clock on Satur- 
day afternoons when the excursion comes in from Brighton." 

They walked on a little further and Esther said, "What's 
these places ? Ain't they dark ? " 

" These are arbours, where we 'as shrimps and tea. I'll take 
you next Saturday, if you'll come." 

A noisy band of young men, followed by three or four 
girls, ran across the bridge. Suddenly they stopped to 
argue on which side the boat was to be found. Some chose 
the left, some the right; those who went to the right sent 
up a yell of triumph, and paddled into the middle of the 
water. They first addressed remarks to their companions, and 
having admired the moon and stars, a song was demanded. 

5 



66 ESTHER WATERS. 

At the end of the second verse William threw his arm round 
Esther. 

" Oh, Esther, I do love you." 

She looked at him, her grey eyes all luminous with love, 
and said — 

" I wonder if that is true. . . . What is there to love in 
me?" 

He squeezed her tightly, and continued his protestations. 
" I do, I do, I do love you, Esther." 

She did not answer, and they walked slowly on. A holly 
bush threw a black shadow on the gravel path. The dusk of 
the garden was full of persuasion, and the ornamental tin roof 
of the dancing-room appeared between the trees. 

Even in their short absence a change had come upon the ball. 
About the circular buffet numbers of men called for drink, and 
talked loudly of horse-racing. Many were away at supper, and 
those that remained were amusing themselves in a desultory 
fashion. A tall, lean woman dressed like Sarah in white muslin, 
wearing amber beads round her neck, was dancing the lancers 
with the Demon, and every one shook with laughter when she 
whirled the little fellow round or took him in her arms and 
carried him across. William wanted to dance, but Esther was 
hungry and led him away to an adjoining building where cold 
beef, chicken, and beer might be had by the strong and the 
adventurous. As they struggled through the crowd Esther 
spied three young gentlemen at the other end of the room. 

"Now tell me if they ask me, the young gents yonder, to 
dance, am I to look them straight in the face and say no ? " 

William considered a moment, and then he said, " I think 
you had better dance with them if they asks you; if you 
refuse, Sarah will say it was I who put you up to it." 

" Let's have another bottle," cried Ginger. " Come, what do 
you say, Mr. Thomas ? " 

Mr. Thomas coughed, smiled, and said that Mr. Arthur 
wished to see him in the hands of the police. However, he 
promised to drink his share. Two more bottles were sent for, 
and, stimulated by the wine, the weights that would probably be 
assigned to certain horses in the autumn handicap were dis- 
cussed. William was very proud of being admitted into such 
company, and he listened, a cigar which he did not like between 
his teeth, and a glass of champagne in his hand. . . . Suddenly 
the conversation was interrupted by the cornet sounding the 



ESTHER WATERS. 67 

first phrase of a favourite waltz, and the tipsy and the sober 
hastened away. 

Neither Esther nor William knew how to waltz, but they 
tumbled round the room, enjoying themselves immensely. In 
the polka and mazurka they got on better; and there were 
quadrilles and lancers in which the gentlemen joined and all 
were gay and pleasant, even Sarah's usually sour face glowed 
with cordiality when they joined hands and raced round the 
men standing in the middle. In the chain they lost themselves 
as in a labyrinth and found their partners unexpectedly. But 
the dance of the evening was Sir Roger de Coverley, and 
Esther's usually sober little brain evaporated in the folly of 
running up the room, then turning and running backwards, 
getting into her place as best she could and then starting 
again. It always appeared to be her turn, and it was so sweet 
to see her dear William, and such a strange excitement to run 
forward to meet young Mr. Preston, to curtsey to him, and 
then run away ; and this over and over again. 

Suddenly some one cried, " There's the dawn," and in the 
whitening doorways Esther saw the little jockey staggering about 
helplessly drunk. Then she felt that all this dancing, drinking, 
and kissing in the arbours was very wicked and that she 
ought not to have allowed herself to have been persuaded 
into going to the ball. But Miss Mary had sent for her 
and told her that she would give her one of her dresses. 
She did not know how to refuse Miss Mary. At that 
moment sounds of loud voices were heard in the garden, and 
the lean woman in the white muslin repeated some charge 
which young Mr. Preston denied. Esther heard William tell 
some one that he was mistaken, that he and his pals didn't want 
no rowing at this 'ere ball, and what was more they don't mean 
to have none. 

Esther watched the scene and her heart filled with love for 
her big William. What a fine fellow he was ! how handsome 
were his shoulders beside that round-shouldered little man 
whom he so easily pulled aside ! And the quarrel over he 
helped her on with her jacket, and, hanging on his arm, they 
returned home through the little town. Margaret followed 
with the railway porter ; Sarah was with her faithful admirer, 
a man with a red beard, whom she had picked up at the 
ball ; Grover waddled in the rear, embarrassed with the green 
silk which she held high out of the dust of the road. 



68 ESTHER WATERS. 

When they reached the station the sky was stained with 
rose, and the barren downs — more tin-like than ever in the 
shadowless light of dawn — stretched across the sunrise from 
Lancing to Brighton. The little birds sat ruffling their 
feathers, and, awaking to the responsibilities of the day, flew 
away into the corn. The night had been close and sultry, and 
even at this hour there was hardly any freshness in the air. 
Esther looked at the hills, examining the landscape intently. 
She was thinking of the first time she saw it. Some vague 
association of idea — the likeness that the morning landscape 
bore to the evening landscape, or the wish to prolong the 
sweetness of these, the last moments of her happiness, impelled 
her to linger and to ask William if the woods and fields were 
not beautiful. The too familiar landscape awoke in William 
neither idea nor sensation ; Esther interested him more, and 
while she gazed dreamily on the hills he admired the white 
curve of her neck which showed beneath the unbuttoned 
jacket. She never looked prettier than she did that morning, 
standing on the dusty road, her white dress crumpled, the ends 
of the blue sash hanging beneath the black cloth jacket. 



ESTHER WATERS. 69 



XL 

For days nothing was talked of but the ball — how this man 
had danced, the bad taste of this woman's dress, and the 
possibility of a marriage. The ball had brought amusement to 
all, to Esther it had brought happiness. Her happiness was 
now visible in her face and audible in her voice, and Sarah's 
ironical allusions to her inability to learn to read no longer 
annoyed her, no longer stirred her temper — her love seemed to 
induce forgiveness for all and love for everything. The days 
were filled with fugitive meetings and hurried words, but in the 
evenings when their work was done they lingered about the 
farm buildings, listening to the rooks, seeing the lights die in 
the West; and in the summer darkness about nine she tripped 
by his side when he took the letters to the post. 

The wheat stacks were thatching, and in the rick-yard, in 
the carpenter's shop, and in the whist of the woods they talked 
of love and marriage. They lay together in the warm valleys, 
listening to the tinkling of the sheep-bell, seeing the golden 
hours darken in the west. One evening, putting his pipe aside, 
William threw his arm round her and whispered that she was 
his wife. The words sounded delicious in her ears, but she 
could hardly hear what he said after ; a sort of weakness seemed 
to come over her. It must be the beer she had drunk. She 
wished she had not taken that last glass. She could not 
struggle with him. . . . 

The stars were shining when he followed her across the 
down. He besought of her to listen, but she fled down 
the long, grey road and up the stairs to her room. Margaret 
was in bed, and awakening a little asked her what had 
kept her out so late. She did not answer, and she heard 
Margaret fall asleep. She remembered the supper-table. 
Sarah, who had come in late, had sat down by her; 



70 ESTHER WATERS. 

William sat on the opposite side; Mrs. Latch was in her 
place, the jockeys were all together ; Mr; Swindles, his snuff- 
box on the table ; Margaret and Grover. Every one had eaten 
a great deal, and Mr. Leopold had gone to the beer cellar 
many times. She thought that she remembered feeling a little 
dizzy when William asked her to come for a stroll up the hill. 
The cows were lying down, and the rooks came home noisily 
through the deepening sky. They had passed through the 
hunting gate; they had wandered far into the loneliness of 
the hills. So far she remembered, she would remember no 
further, and lay all night staring into the darkness, and when 
Margaret called her in the morning she was pale and death-like. 

"Whatever is the matter? You do look ill." 

"I did not sleep all last night. My head aches as if it 
would drop off. I don't feel as if I could go to work to-day." 

" That's the worst of being a servant. Well or ill, it makes 
no matter." Margaret turned from the glass, but she held 
her hair in her left hand, leaning her head so that she might 
roll it into a knot, and having pinned it she looked at Esther 
again. " You do look bad," she remarked dryly. 

Esther struggled through her dressing, and they went down- 
stairs. Never had they been so late! Half-past seven, and 
the shutters still up ! William, who was cleaning boots in the 
pantry, waited until he heard the baize door which separated 
the back premises from the front of the house close, then he 
ran to the kitchen, where he expected to find Esther alone. 
Mrs. Latch asked him what he wanted. He fumbled some 
excuse, and retreated. There were visitors in the house, and 
he had a good deal to do that morning, and Esther kept close 
to Mrs. Latch. She could not meet his eyes — she would die 
of shame. During breakfast it suddenly became necessary 
that she should answer him, and Sarah saw that Esther and 
William were no longer friends. Her face brightened. 

" Well I never ! Look at her ! She sits there over her 
tea-cup as melancholy as a prayer-meeting." 

" What is it to you ? " said William. 

" What's it to me ? I don't like an ugly face at the breakfast- 
table, that's all." 

" I wouldn't be your looking-glass, then. Lucky there isn't 
one here." 

Sarah and William drifted into an angry altercation, in the 
middle of which Esther walked out of the room. And during 



ESTHER WATERS. 7 1 

dinner she hardly spoke at all. She was called upon to make 
it up. After dinner she could only escape from him by 
shutting herself up in her room, and she did not come down 
until she thought he had gone out with the carriage. She 
was, however, some few minutes too soon, and William came 
running down the passage to meet her. He laid his hand 
supplicatingly on her arm. 

"Don't touch me!" she said, and her eyes filled with 
dangerous light. 

" What nonsense this is, Esther ! . . . Come, don't lay it on 
too thick." 

" Go away. Don't speak to me ! " 

"Just listen one moment, that's all." 

" Go away. If you don't, I'll go straight to Mrs. Barfield." 

William hesitated, and she passed into the kitchen and shut 
the door in his face. He had gone a trifle pale, and after 
lingering a few moments hurried away to the stables. Esther 
saw him spring on the box. 

As it was frequent with Esther not to speak to any one with 
whom she had had a dispute for a week or fifteen days, her 
continued sulk excited little suspicion, and the cause of the 
quarrel was attributed to some trifle. Sarah said — 

" Men are such fools. He is always begging of her to 
forgive him. Just look at him — he is still after her, following 
her into the wood-shed." 

It was as Sarah said. William followed Esther from the 
kitchen to the scullery, from the scullery to the wood-shed. 
She rarely answered him a yes or no, but would push past him, 
and if he forcibly barred the way she would say, " Let me go 
by, will you? You are interfering with my work." And if he 
still insisted, she spoke of appealing to Mrs. Barfield. 

She had not willed to give herself; he had taken advantage 
of her in|fcmoment of weakness. This was how she under- 
stood hewRn ; and if her heart sometimes softened, and an 
insidious thought whispered that it did not matter since they 
were going to be married, an instinct forced her to act in 
contradiction to her desire. She felt that she could only win 
his respect by refusing forgiveness for a long while. The 
religion in which her soul moved and lived — the sternest 
Protestantism — strengthened and enforced the original con- 
victions and the prejudices of her race, and the natural shame 
which she had first felt almost disappeared in the violence 



72 ESTHER WATERS. 

of her virtue. She even ceased to fear discovery. What did 
it matter who knew, since she knew? And on her knees at 
night she opened her heart to God. Christ looked down, but 
He seemed stern and unforgiving. Hers was the unpardon- 
able sin, the sin which her race had elected to fight against. 
She lay down heavy and sullen at heart. Her Christ was 
the Christ of her forefathers; and He had not forgiven, 
because she could not forgive herself. 

The days seemed to bring no change, and, wearied by her 
stubbornness, William said, "Well, let her sulk," and he went 
out with Sarah ; and when Esther saw them go down the yard 
her heart said, " Let him take her out, I don't want him." For 
she knew it to be an attempt to make her jealous, and that 
he should employ such a trick angered her still further against 
him, and when they met in the garden, where she had gone 
with some food for the cats, and he said, " Forgive me, Esther; 
I only went out with Sarah because you drove me wild," she 
closed her teeth, and refused to answer. But he stood in her 
path, determined not to leave her. " I am very fond of you, 
Esther, and I will marry you as soon as I have earned enough, 
or won enough money to give you a comfortable 'ome." 

"You are a wicked man ; I will never marry you." 

"I am very sorry, Esther. But I am not as bad as you 
think for. You let your temper get the better of you. So 
soon as I have got a bit of money together " 

" If you were a good man you would ask me to marry you 
now." 

" I will if you like, but the truth is that I have only three 
pounds in the world. I have been unlucky lately " 

"You think of nothing but that wicked betting. Come, let 
me pass ; I'm not going to listen to a lot of lies." 

"After the Leger " 

" Let me pass. I will not speak to you." 

"But look here, Esther; marriage or no marriage, we 
can't go on in this way; they'll be suspecting something 
shortly." 

"I shall leave Woodview." She had hardly spoken the 
words when it seemed clear to her that she must leave, and 
the sooner the better. "Come, let me pass. ... If Mrs. 
Barfield " 

An angry look passed over William's face, and he said — 

" I want to act honest with you, and you won't let me. If 



ESTHER WATERS. 73 

ever there was a sulky pig ! . . . Sarah's quite right ; you are 
just the sort that would make hell of a man's life." 

She was bound to make him respect her. She had vaguely 
felt from the beginning that this was her only hope, and now 
the sensation developed and defined itself into a thought, and 
she decided that she would not yield, but would continue to 
affirm her belief that he must acknowledge his sin, and then 
come and ask her to marry him. Above all things, Esther 
desired to see William repentant. Her natural piety, filling as 
it did her entire life, unconsciously made her deem repentance 
an essential condition of their happiness. How could they 
be happy if he were not a God-fearing man ? This question 
presented itself constantly, and in a sort of dim, vague way 
she felt that she could not marry him until he had asked 
forgiveness of the Lord ; then they would be joined together, 
and would love each other faithfully unto death. Such was 
the natural and habitual tone of a mind which the world had 
not yet broken. But in conflict with her prejudices, her 
natural love of the man was as a sun shining above a fog- 
laden valley ; rays of passion pierced her stubborn nature, 
dissolving it, and unconsciously her eyes sought William's, 
and unconsciously her steps strayed from the kitchen when her 
ears told her he was in the passage. Had Esther relented 
earlier the fate of her life would have been different, for when 
her heart had conquered her prejudice, when her love went 
out freely to William, when she longed to throw herself in his 
arms, saying, " Yes, I love you ; make me your wife," she 
noticed, or thought she noticed, that he avoided her eyes, and 
she felt that thoughts of which she knew nothing had obtained 
a footing in his mind, and she was full of foreboding. 

Her heart being intent on him, she was aware of much 
that escaped the ordinary eye, and she was the first to notice 
when the drawing-room bell rang, and Mr. Leopold rose, that 
William would say, " My legs are the youngest, don't you stir." 

No one else, not even Sarah, thought that William intended 
more than to keep in Mr. Leopold's good graces, but Esther, 
although unable to guess the truth, heard the still tinkling bell 
ringing the knell of her hopes. She noted, too, the time he 
remained upstairs, and asked herself anxiously what it was 
that detained him so long. The weather had turned colder 
lately, . . . was it a fire that was wanted? She did not 
know who was in the drawing-room. She succeeded in 



74 ESTHER WATERS. 

finding out from Margaret that Miss Mary and Mrs. Barfield 
had gone to Southwick to make a call, and she heard 
from one of the boys that the Gaffer and Ginger had ridden 
over in the morning to Fendon Fair, and had not yet 
returned; therefore it must have been Peggy who had rung 
the bell. Esther continued her work. Suddenly she remem- 
bered something — something that had been wholly forgotten. 
The first Sunday, the first time she went to the library for family 
prayers Peggy was sitting on the little green sofa, and as Esther 
passed across the room to her place she saw her cast a glance 
of admiration on William's tall figure. That glance had passed 
away, but memory of it was now vivid in her brain, and all 
that night Esther saw the girl with the pale face and coal- 
black hair looking at her through the darkness. 

Next day Esther waited for the bell that was to call her 
lover from her. The afternoon wore slowly away, and she 
had begun to hope she was mistaken when the metal 
tongue commenced calling. She heard the baize door close 
behind him ; but the bell still continued to utter little pathetic 
notes. A moment after all was still in the corridor. 

Like one sunk to the knees in quicksands she felt that the 
time had come for a decided effort. She felt that she must 
fight for her lover, but how? William seemed to avoid her, 
and by his conduct seemed to wish that their quarrel might 
endure. But her pride and temper had both fallen from her, 
and she lived conscious only of him, noting every sign ; she 
was alive to all that related to him, she divined his intentions, 
and met him in the passage when he least expected her. 

" I'm always getting in your way," she said, with a low, 
nervous laugh. 

" No harm in that ; . . . fellow-servants ; there must be 
give and take." 

They stood looking at each other. The time had come, an 
explanation was inevitable, but at that moment the drawing- 
room bell rang above their heads. William said, "I must 
answer that bell," and he turned from her, passing through the 
baize door before she could say another word. 

One day Sarah remarked that William seemed to spend a 
great deal of his time in the drawing-room. Esther started out 
of her moody contemplation, and, speaking instinctively, she 
said, " I don't think much of ladies who go after their 
servants." 



ESTHER WATERS. 75 

Every one looked up. Mrs. Latch laid her carving-knife on 
the meat and fixed her eyes on her son. 

" Lady ! " said Sarah ; " she's no lady ! Her mother used 
to mop out the yard before she was ' churched.' " 

" I can tell you what," said William, "you had better mind 
what you are a-saying of, for if any of your talk got wind 
upstairs you'd lose yer situation, and it might be some time 
before yer got another." 

" Lose my situation ! and a good job too. I shall always 
be able to suit mesel'; don't you fear about me. But if it 
comes to talking about situations, I can tell you that you are 
more likely to lose yours than I am to lose mine." 

William hesitated, and while he sought a judicious reply 
Mrs. Latch and Mr. Leopold, putting forth their authority, 
brought the discussion to a close. The jockey-boys exchanged 
grins, Sarah sulked, Mr. Swindles and Mr. Leopold pursed up 
their mouths in consideration. The elder servants felt that 
the matter would not rest in the servants' hall ; it would be 
the theme of conversation that evening in the " Red Lion," 
and the next day of the entire town. 

On the following day Esther, about four o'clock, saw Mrs. 
Barneld, Miss Mary, and Peggy walk across the yard towards 
the garden, and as Esther had to go soon after to the wood- 
shed she saw Peggy slip out of the garden by a bottom gate 
and make her way through the evergreens. Esther hastened 
back to the kitchen and stood waiting for the bell to ring. 
She had not to wait long ; the bell tinkled, but so faintly that 
Esther said, " She only just touched it, it is a signal ; he was 
on the look-out for it ; she did not want any one else to hear." 

She remembered the thousands of pounds she had heard 
that the young lady possessed, and the beautiful dress she 
would wear. There was no hope for her. How could there 
be ? Her poor little wages and her print dress ! He would 
never look at her again ! But oh ! how cruel and wicked 
it was ! How could one who had so much come to steal 
from one who had so little? Oh, it was very cruel and 
very wicked, and no good would come of it either to her or 
to him; of that she felt quite sure. God always punished 
the wicked. She knew he did not love Peggy. It was 
sin and shame ; and after his promises — after what had 
happened. Never would she have believed him to be so 
false. Then her thought turned to passionate hatred of the 



76 ESTHER WATERS. 

girl who had so cruelly robbed her. He had gone through 
that baize door, and no doubt he was sitting by Peggy in the 
new drawing-room. He had gone where she could not follow. 
He had gone where the grand folk lived in idleness, in the 
sinfulness of the world and the flesh, eating and gambling, 
thinking of nothing else, and with servants to wait on them, 
obeying their orders and saving them from every trouble. She 
knew that these fine folk thought servants inferior beings. 
But was she not of the same flesh and blood as they? Peggy 
wore a fine dress, but she was no better ; take off her dress and 
they were the same, woman to woman. 

Passing through the baize door, she walked down the 
wide passage. A few steps brought her to the foot of a 
polished oak staircase, lit by a large window in coloured 
glass, on either side of which there were statues. The stair- 
case sloped slowly to an imposing landing set out with columns 
and blue vases and embroidered curtains. The girl saw these 
things vaguely, and she was conscious of a profusion of rugs, 
matting, and bright doors, and of her inability to decide which 
door was the drawing-room door — the drawing-room of which 
she had heard so much, and where even now, amid gold 
furniture and sweet-scented air, William listened to the wicked 
woman who had tempted him away from her. Suddenly 
William appeared, and seeing Esther he seemed uncertain 
whether to draw back or come forward. Then his face took 
an expression of mixed fear and anger; and coming rapidly 
towards her, he said — 

"What are you doing here?" . . . Then, changing his 
voice, " This is against the rules of the 'ouse." 

" I want to see her." 

"Anything else! What do you want to say to her? I 
won't have it, I tell you. . . . What do you mean by spying 
after me ? That's your game, is it ? " 

" I want to speak to her." 

" We'll talk of that in the kitchen," and taking her by the 
shoulders William forced her out of the hall. With averted 
face the young lady fled up the oak staircase, her handkerchief 
to her lips. Esther made a movement as if to follow, but 
William prevented her. She turned and walked down the 
passage and entered the kitchen. Her face was one white 
tint, her short, strong arms hung tremblingly, and William 
saw that it would be better to temporise. 



ESTHER WATERS. 77 

" Now look here, Esther," he said, " you ought to be 
damned thankful to me for having prevented you from making 
a fool of yourself." 

Esther's eyelids quivered, and' then her eyes dilated. She 
could not speak. 

" Now, if Miss Margaret," continued William, " had " 

" Go away ! go away ! I am " At that moment the 

steel of a large, sharp-pointed knife lying on the table caught 
her eye. She snatched it up, and seeing blood she rushed at 
him. 

William retreated from her, and Mrs. Latch caught her arm. 
Esther shrieked and threw the knife ; it struck the wall, falling 
with a rattle on the meat screen. Escaping from Mrs. Latch, 
who had just entered, she rushed to secure it, but her strength 
giving way at that moment she fell back in a dead faint. 

" What have you been doing to the girl ? " said Mrs. Latch. 

" Nothing, mother. . . . We had a few words, that was all. 
She said I should not go out with Sarah." 

" That is not true. ... I can read the lie in the face ; a 
good girl doesn't take up a knife unless a man well-nigh drives 
her mad." 

" That's right ; always side against your son ! ... If you 
don't believe me get what you can out of her yourself." And, 
turning on his heel, he walked out of the house. 

Mrs. Latch saw him pass down the yard towards the stables. 
She bathed Esther's face, and when she opened her eyes she 
looked at Mrs. Latch questioningly, unable to understand why 
the old woman stood by her. 

"Are you better now, dear?" 

" Yes, but — but what " Then remembrance struggled 

back. " Is he gone ? Did I strike him ? I remember that 
I " 

" You did not hurt him." 

" I don't want to see him again. Far better not. I was 
mad. I did not know what I was doing." 

" You will tell me about it another time, dear." 

" Where is he ? tell me that ; I must know." 

"Gone to the stables, I think; but you must not go after 
him — you'll see him to-morrow." 

" I do not want to go after him ; but he isn't hurt ? That's 
what I want to know." 

" No, he isn't hurt. . . . You're getting stronger. . . . Lean 



78 ESTHER WATERS. 

on me. You'll begin to feel better when you are in bed. I'll 
bring you up your tea." 

" Yes, I shall be all right presently. But how'll you manage 
to get the dinner ? " 

11 Don't you worry about that ; you go upstairs and lie 
down." 

A desolate hope floated over the surface of her brain that 
William might be brought back to her. In the evening she 
got up and went downstairs. The kitchen was full of people : 
Margaret, Sarah, and Grover were there, and she heard that 
immediately after lunch Mr. Leopold had been sent for, 
and the Gaffer had instructed him to pay William a month's 
wages, and see that he left the house that very instant. Sarah, 
Margaret, and Grover watched Esther's face, and were sur- 
prised at her indifference. She even seemed pleased. She 
was pleased : nothing better could have happened. William 
was now separated from her rival; released from her bad 
influence he would return to his real love. At the first sign 
she would go to him, she would forgive him. But a little 
later, when the dishes came down from the dining-room, it 
was whispered that Peggy was not there. 

Later in the evening, when the servants were going to bed, 
it became known that she had left the house, that she had 
taken the six o'clock to Brighton. Esther turned from the 
foot of the stair with a wild look. Margaret caught her. " It 
is no use, dear ; you can do nothing to-night." 

" I can walk to Brighton." 

" No, you can't ; you don't know the way, and even if you 
did you don't know where they are." 

Neither Sarah nor Grover made any remark, and in silence 
the servants went to their rooms. Margaret closed the door 
and turned to look at Esther, who had fallen on the chair, her 
eyes fixed in vacancy. 

" I know what it is ; I was the same when Jim Story got the 
sack. It seems as if one couldn't live through it, and yet one 
does somehow." 

" I wonder if they'll marry." 

" Most probable. She has a lot of money." 

Two days after a cab stood in the yard in front of the kitchen 
window. Peggy's luggage was being piled upon it — two large, 
handsome basket boxes with the initials painted on them. 
Kneeling on the box-seat, the coachman leaned over the roof 



ESTHER WATERS. 79 

making room for another — a small box covered with red cow- 
hide and tied with a rough rope. The little box in its poor 
simplicity brought William back to Esther, whelming her for a 
moment in so acute a sense of her loss that she had to leave the 
kitchen. She went into the scullery, drew the door after her, 
sat down, and hid her face in her apron. A stifled sob or two, 
and then she recovered her habitual gravity of expression, and 
continued her work as if nothing had happened. 



80 ESTHER WATERS. 



XII. 

" They are just crazy about it upstairs. Ginger and the Gaffer 
are the worst. They says they had better sell the place and 
build another house somewhere else. None of the county 
people will call on them now — and just as they were beginning 
to get on so well ! Miss Mary, too, is terrible cut up about it; 
she says it will interfere with her prospects, and that Ginger 
has nothing to do now but to marry the kitchen-maid to com- 
plete the ruin of the Barfields." 

" Miss Mary is far too kind to say anything to wound 
another's feelings. It is only a nasty old deceitful thing like 
yourself who could think of such a thing." 

" Eh, you got it there, my lady," said Sarah, who had had a 
difference with Grover, and was anxious to avenge it. 

Grover looked at Sarah in astonishment, and her look clearly 
said, "Is every one going to side with that little kitchen- 
maid ? " 

Then, to flatter Mrs. Latch, Sarah spoke of the position the 
Latches had held three generations ago; the Barfields were 
then nobodies ; they had nothing even now but their money, 
and that had come out of a livery stable. " And it shows, too; 
just compare Ginger with young Preston or young Northcote. 
Any one could tell the difference." 

Esther listened at the end of October as she had listened 
at the beginning of September, with an unmoved face and a 
heavy ache in her heart. She had now not an enemy nor yet 
an opponent ; the cause of rivalry and jealousy being removed, 
all were sorry for her. They recognised that she had suffered 
and was suffering, and seeing none but friends about her, 
she was led to think how happy she might have been in 
this beautiful house if it had not been for William. She loved 
her work, for she was working for those she loved. She could 
imagine no life happier than hers might have been. But she 



ESTHER WATERS. 8 1 

had sinned, and the Lord had punished her for her sin, and 
she must bear her punishment uncomplainingly, giving Him 
thanks that He had imposed no heavier one upon her. 

Such reflection was the substance of Esther's mind for three 
months after William's departure ; and in the afternoons, about 
three o'clock, when her work paused, Esther's thoughts would 
congregate and settle on the great misfortune of her life — 
William's desertion. 

It was one afternoon at the beginning of December ; Mrs. 
Latch had gone upstairs to lie down. Esther had drawn her 
chair towards the fire. A broken-down race-horse, his legs 
bandaged from his knees to his forelocks, had passed up the 
yard; he was going for walking exercise on the downs, and 
when the sound of his hoofs had died away Esther was quite 
alone. She sat on her wooden chair facing the wide kitchen 
window. She had advanced one foot on the iron fender; 
her head leaned back, rested on her hand. The glow 
from the fire showed on her print dress. And it was in this 
death of active memory that something awoke within her, 
something that seemed to her like a flutter of wings ; she was 
agitated to the ends of her flesh, and her heart seemed to 
drop from its socket. When the faintness passed she started 
to her feet, her arms were drawn back and pressed to her sides, 
a death-like pallor overspread her face, and drops of sweat 
appeared on her forehead. The truth shone upon her like a 
star — she had realised in a moment part of the awful drama 
that awaited her, and from which nothing could free her, and 
which she would have to live through hour by hour. And so 
immeasurably dreadful did it seem, that for a slight moment 
she thought her brain must have given way. But no, no, 
it was all too true. She would have to leave Woodview. 
Oh, the shame of confession ! Mrs. Barfield, who had been 
so good to her, and who thought so highly of her. Her 
father would not have her at home ; she would be homeless 
in London. . . . No hope of obtaining a situation ; . . . they 
would send her away without a character, . . . homeless in 
London, and every month her position growing more des- 
perate. . . . 

A sickly faintness crept up through her. The flesh had 
came to the relief of the spirit ; and she sank upon her chair, 
almost unconscious, sick, it seemed, to death. She wiped her 
forehead slowly with her apron. . . . She might be mistaken. 

6 



82 ESTHER WATERS. 

. . . She hid her face in her hands. . . . Then falling on her 
knees, her arms thrown forward upon the table, she prayed 
for strength to walk without flinching under any cross that He 
had thought fit to lay upon her. 

There was still the hope that she might be mistaken ; and 
this hope lasted for one week, for two, but at the end of 
the third week it perished, and she abandoned herself in 
prayer. She prayed for strength to endure well what she 
now knew she must endure, and she prayed for light to 
guide her in her present decision. Should she go to Mrs. 
Barfield and confess her sin ? Mrs. Barfield, however much 
she might pity her, could not keep her once she knew 
the truth, whereas none might know the truth if she did not 
tell it. She might remain at Woodview earning another 
quarter's wages ; the first she had spent on boots and clothes, 
the second she had just been paid. If she stayed on for 
another quarter she would have eight pounds, and with that 
money, and much less time to keep herself, she might be able 
to pull through. But would she be able to go undetected for 
nearly three whole months, until her next wages came due ? 
She must risk it. 

Three months of constant fear and agonising suspense wore 
away, and no one, not even Margaret, suspected Esther's 
condition. Encouraged by her success, and seeing still very 
little sign of change in her person, and as every penny she 
could earn was of vital consequence in the coming time, 
Esther determined to risk another month.; then she would 
give notice and leave. Another month passed, and Esther 
was preparing for departure when a whisper went round, and 
before she could take steps to leave she was told that Mrs. 
Barfield wished to see her in the library. Esther turned a little 
pale, and the expression of her face altered ; it seemed to her 
impossible to go before Mrs. Barfield and admit her shame. 
Margaret, who was standing near and saw what was passing in 
her mind, said — 

" Pull yourself together, Esther. You know the Saint — she's 
not a bad sort. Like all the real good ones, she is kind enough 
to the faults of others." 

"What's this? What's the matter with Esther? " said Mrs. 
Latch, who had not yet heard of Esther's misfortune. 

" I'll tell you presently, Mrs. Latch. Go, dear, get it over." 

Esther hurried down the passage and passed through the 



ESTHER WATERS. 8$ 

baize door without further thought. She had then but to turn 
to the left and a few steps would bring her to the library door. 
The room was already present in her mind. She could see it. 
The dim light, the little green sofa, the round table covered 
with books, the piano at the back, the parrot in the corner, 
and the canaries in the window. After a moment's hesitation 
she knocked at the door. The well-known voice said " Come 
in." She turned the handle, and found herself alone with her 
mistress. Mrs. Barfield laid down the book she was reading 
and looked up. She did not look as angry as Esther had 
imagined, but her voice was harder than usual. 

"Is this true, Esther?" 

Esther hung down her head. She could not speak at first ; 
then she said, "Yes." 

"I thought you were a good girl, Esther." 

" So did I, ma'am." 

Mrs. Barfield looked at the girl quickly, hesitated a moment, 
and then said — 

" And all this time — how long is it?" 

"Nearly seven months, ma'am." 

"And all this time you were deceiving us." 

" I was three months gone before I knew it myself, ma'am." 

" Three months ! Then for three months you have knelt 
every Sunday in prayer in this room, for twelve Sundays you 
sat by me learning to read, and you never said a word ? " 

A certain harshness in Mrs. Barfield's voice awakened a 
rebellious spirit in Esther, and a lowering expression gathered 
above her eyes. She said — 

" Had I told you, you would have sent me away then and 
there. I had only a quarter's wages, and should have starved 
or gone and drowned myself." 

" I'm sorry to hear you speak like that, Esther." 

" It is trouble that makes me, ma'am, and I have had a 
great deal." 

"Why did you not confide in me? I have not shown 
myself cruel to you, have I ? " 

" No, indeed, ma'am. You are the best mistress a servant 
ever had, but " 

" But what ? " 

" Why, ma'am, it is this way. ... I hated being deceitful— 
indeed I did. But I can no longer think of myself. There is 
another to think for now." 



84 ESTHER WATERS. 

There was in Mrs. Barfield's look something akin to admira- 
tion, and she felt she had not been wholly wrong in her estimate 
of the girl's character ; she said, and in a different intonation — 

" Perhaps you were right, Esther. I couldn't have kept 
you on, on account of the bad example to the younger 
servants. I might have helped you with money. But six 
months alone in London and in your condition ! ... I am 
glad you did not tell me, Esther; and as you say there is 
another to think of now, I hope you will never neglect your 
child, if God give it to you alive." 

" I hope not, ma'am ; I shall try to do my best." 

" My poor girl ! my poor girl ! you do not know what trial 
is in store for you. A girl like you, and only twenty ! . . . 
Oh, it is a shame ! May God give you courage to bear up in 
your adversity ! " 

" I know there is many a hard time before me, but I have 
prayed for strength, and God will give me strength, and I must 
not complain. My case is not so bad as many another. I 
have nearly eight pounds. I shall get on, ma'am, that is to say 
if you will stand by me and not refuse me a character." 

" Can I give you a character? You were tempted, you were 
led into temptation. I ought to have watched over you better 
— mine is the responsibility. Tell me, it was not your fault." 

" It is always a woman's fault, ma'am. But he should 
not have deserted me as he did, that's the only thing I re- 
proach him with, the rest was my fault — I shouldn't have 
touched the second glass of ale. Besides, I was in love with 
him, and you know what that is. I thought no harm, and 
I let him kiss me. He used to take me out for walks on the 
hill and round the farm. He told me he loved me, and would 
make me his wife — that's how it was. Afterwards he asked 
me to wait till after the Leger, and that riled me, and I knew 
then how wicked I had been. I would not go out with him or 
speak to him any more ; and while our quarrel was going on 
Miss Peggy went after him, and that's how I got left." 

At the mention of Peggy's name a cloud passed over Mrs. 
Barfield's face. " You have been shamefully treated, my poor 
child. I knew nothing of all this. So he said he would marry 
you if he won his bet on the Leger? Oh, that betting ! I know 
that nothing else is thought of here, upstairs and downstairs, 

the whole place is poisoned with it, and it is the fault of " 

Mrs. Barfield walked hurriedly across the room, but when she 



ESTHER WATERS. 85 

turned the sight of Esther provoked her into speech. " I have 
seen it all my life, nothing else, and I have seen nothing come 
of it but sin and sorrow; you are not the first victim. Ah, what 
ruin, what misery, what death ! n 

Mrs. Barfield covered her face with her hands, as if to shut 
out the memories that crowded upon her. 

" I think, ma'am, if you will excuse my saying so, that a 
great deal of harm do come from this betting on race-horses. 
The day when you all was away at Goodwood when the horse 
won, I went down to see what the sea was like here. I was 
brought up by the seaside, at Barnstaple. On the beach I met 
Mrs. Leopold, that is to say Mrs. Randal, John's wife; she 
seemed to be in great trouble, she looked that melancholy, and 
for company's sake she asked me to come home to tea with her. 
She was in that state of mind, ma'am, that she forgot the tea- 
spoons were in pawn, and when she could not give me one she 
broke down completely, and told me what her troubles had 
been." 

" What did she tell you, Esther? " 

"I hardly remember, ma'am, but it was all the same thing 
— ruin if the horse didn't win, and more betting if he did. But 
she said they never had been in such a fix as the day Silver 
Braid won. If he had been beaten they would have been 
thrown out on the street, and from what I have heard the best 
half of the town too." 

" So that little man has suffered. I thought he was wiser 
than the rest. . . . This house has been the ruin of the 
neighbourhood, and we have dispensed vice instead of 
righteousness." Walking towards the window Mrs. Barfield 
continued talking to herself. " I have struggled against the 
evil all my life, and without result. How much more misery 
shall I see come of it ? " Turning then to Esther she said, 
"Yes, the betting is an evil — one from which many have 
suffered — but the question is now about yourself, Esther. 
How much money have you ? " 

" I have about eight pounds, ma'am." 

" And how much do you reckon will see you through it ? " 

" I don't know, ma'am, I have no experience. I think 
father will let me stay at home if I can pay my way. I could 
manage easily on seven shillings a week. When my time 
comes I shall go to the hospital." 

While Esther spoke Mrs. Barfield calculated roughly that 



86 ESTHER WATERS. 

about ten pounds would meet most of her wants. Her train- 
fare, two months' board at seven shillings a week, the room she 
would have to take near the hospital before her confinement 
and to which she would return to with her baby — all these 
would run to about four or five pounds. There would be 
baby's clothes to buy. ... If she gave four pounds Esther 
would have then twelve pounds, and with that she would be 
able to manage. Mrs. Barfield went over to an old-fashioned 
escritoire, and, pulling out some small drawers, took from one 
some paper packages which she unfolded. " Now, my girl, 
look here. I'm going to give you four pounds ; then you will 
have twelve, and that ought to see you through your trouble. 
You have been a good servant, Esther ; I like you very much, 
and *am truly sorry to part with you. . . . You will write and 
tell me how you are getting on, and if one of these days you 
want a place, and I have one to give you, I shall be glad to 
take you back." 

Harshness deadened and hardened her feelings, but she 
was easily moved by kindness, and she longed to throw her- 
self at her mistress's feet, but her nature did not admit of such 
effusion, and she said, in her blunt English way, "You are 
far too good, ma'am ; I do not deserve such treatment — I 
know I don't." 

" Say no more, Esther. I hope that the Lord may give you 
strength to bear your cross. . . . Now go and pack up your 
box. But, Esther, do you feel your sin, can you truly say 
honestly before God that you repent ? " 

"Yes, ma'am, I think I can say all that." 

"Then, Esther, come and kneel down and pray to 
God to give you strength in the future to stand against 
temptation." 

Mrs. Barfield took Esther's hand and they knelt down by 
the round table, leaning their hands on its edge. And, in a 
high clear voice, Mrs. Barfield prayed aloud, Esther repeating 
the words after her — 

" Dear Lord, Thou who knowest all things, knowest how Thy 
servant has strayed and has fallen into sin. But Thou hast 
said there is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth 
than over ninety and nine just men. Therefore, Lord, kneeling 
here before Thee, we pray that this poor girl, who repents of 
the evil she has done, may be strengthened in Thy mercy to 
stand firm against temptation. Forgive her sin, even as Thou 



ESTHER WATERS. 87 

forgavest the woman of Samaria. Give her strength to walk 
uprightly before Thee, and give her strength to bear the pain 
and the suffering that lies before her." 

The women rose from their knees and stood looking at each 
other. Esther's eyes were full of tears. Without speaking she 
turned to go. 

"One word more, Esther. You asked me just now for a 
character ; I hesitated, but it seems to me now that it would 
be wrong to refuse. If I did you might never get a place, and 
then it would be impossible to say what might happen. I am 
not certain that I am doing right, but I know what it means 
to refuse to give a servant a character, and I cannot take upon 
myself the responsibility." 

Mrs. Barfield wrote out a character for Esther, in which she 
described her as an honest, hard-working girl. She paused at 
the word " reliable," and wrote instead, " I believe her to be at 
heart a thoroughly religious girl." 

Esther went upstairs to pack her box. When she came 
down she found all the women in the kitchen ; evidently they 
were waiting for her. Coming forward, Sarah said — 

"I hope we shall part friends, Esther; any quarrels 

we .may have had There's no ill feeling now, is 

there?" 

"I bear no one any ill feeling. We have been friends these 
last months j indeed, every one has been very kind to me." 
And Esther kissed Sarah on both cheeks. 

" I'm sure we're all sorry to lose you," said Margaret, 
pressing forward, " and we hope you'll write and let us know 
how you are getting on." 

Margaret, who was a tender-hearted girl, began to cry, and, 
kissing Esther, she declared that she had never got on with a 
girl who slept in her room so well before. Esther shook hands 
with Grover, and then her eyes met Mrs. Latch's. The old 
woman took her in her arms. 

"It breaks my heart to think that one belonging to me should 
have done you such a wrong. . . . But if you want for any- 
thing, let me know, and you shall have it. You will want 
money ; I have some here for you." 

"Thank you, thank you, but I have all I want. Mrs. 
Barfield has been very good to me." 

The babbling of so many voices drew Mr. Leopold from his 
pantry; he came with a glass of beer in his hand, and this 



88 ESTHER WATERS. 

suggested a toast to Sarah. " Let's drink baby's health," she 
said. " Mr. Leopold won't refuse us the beer." 

The idea provoked some good-natured laughter, and Esther 
hid her face in her hands and tried to get away. But Margaret 
would not allow her. " What nonsense ! " she said. " We 
don't think any the worse of you ; why, that's an accident that 
might happen to any of us." 

" I hope not," said Esther. 

The jug of beer was finished; she was kissed and hugged 
again, some tears were shed, and Esther walked down the 
yard through the stables. 

The avenue was full of wind and rain ; the branches creaked 
dolefully overhead ; the lane was drenched, and the bare fields 
were fringed with white mist, and the houses seemed lonely 
by the bleak sea, and the girl's soul was desolate as the land- 
scape. She had come to Woodview to escape the suffering of 
a home which had become unendurable, and she was going 
back in circumstances a hundred times worse than those in 
which she had left it, and she was going back with the memory 
of the happiness she had lost. All the grief and trouble that 
girls of her class have so frequently to bear gathered in Esther's 
heart when she looked out of the railway carriage window and 
saw for the last time the stiff plantations on the downs and the 
angles of the Italian house between the trees. She drew her 
handkerchief from her jacket, and hid her distress as well as 
she could from the other occupants of the carriage. 



ESTHER WATERS. 89 



XIII. 

When Esther arrived at Victoria it was raining. She picked 
up her skirt, and as she stepped across a puddle a wild and 
watery wind swept up the wet streets, catching her full in the face. 

She left her box in the cloak-room, for she did not know if 
her father would have her at home. Her mother would tell her 
what she thought, but no one could say for certain what he 
would do. If she brought the box he might fling it after her 
into the street ; better come without it, even if she had to go 
back through the wet to fetch it. At that moment another 
gust drove the rain violently over her, forcing it through her 
boots. The sky was a tint of ashen grey, and all the low brick 
buildings were veiled in vapour ; the rough roadway was full of 
pools, and nothing was heard but the melancholy bell of the 
tram-car. She hesitated, not wishing to spend a penny un- 
necessarily, but remembering that a penny wise is often a 
pound foolish she called to the driver and got in. The car 
passed by the little brick street where the Saunders lived, and 
when Esther pushed the door open she could see into the 
kitchen and overhear the voices of the children. Mrs. Saunders 
was sweeping down the stairs, but at the sound of footsteps she 
ceased to bang the broom, and, stooping till her head looked 
over the banisters, she cried — 

"Who is it?" 

" Me, mother." 

"What you, Esther?" 

"Yes, mother." 

Mrs. Saunders hastened down, and, leaning the broom 
against the wall, she took her daughter in her arms and kissed 
her. " Well, this is nice to see you again, and after this long 
while. But you are looking a bit poorly, Esther." Then her 
face changed expression. "What has happened? Have you 
lost your situation ? " 



90 ESTHER WATERS. 

"Yes, mother." 

" Oh, I am that sorry, for we thought you was so 'appy there 
and liked your mistress above all those you 'ad ever met with. 
Did you lose your temper and answer her back ? They is often 
trying, I know that, and your own temper — you was never very 
sure of it." 

" I've no fault to find with my mistress ; she is the kindest 
in the world — none better — and my temper — it wasn't that, 
mother " 

" My own darling, tell me " 

Esther paused. The children had ceased talking in the 
kitchen, and the front door was open. " Come into the parlour. 
We can talk quietly there. . . . When do you expect father 
home?" 

11 Not for the best part of a couple of hours yet." 

Mrs. Saunders waited until Esther had closed the front door. 
Then they went into the parlour and sat down side by side on the 
little horse-hair sofa placed against the wall facing the window. 
The anxiety in their hearts betrayed itself on their faces. 

" I had to leave, mother. I'm seven months gone." 

" Oh, Esther, Esther, I cannot believe it ! " 

"Yes, mother, it is quite true." 

Esther hurried through her story, and when her mother 
questioned her regarding detail she said — 

"Oh, mother, what does it matter? I don't care to talk 
about it more than I can help." 

Tears had begun to roll down Mrs. Saunders' cheeks, and 
when she wiped them away with the corner of her apron a 
light sob stirred the silence of the room. 

" Don't cry, mother," said Esther. " I have been very 
wicked, I know, but God will be good to me. I always pray 
to Him, just as you taught me to, and I daresay I shall get 
through my trouble somehow." 

"Your father will never let you stop 'ere; 'e'll say, just as 
afore, that there be too many mouths to feed as it is." 

" I don't want him to keep me for nothing — I know well 
enough if I did that 'e'd put me outside quick enough. 
But I can pay my way. I earned good money while I was 
with the Barfields, and even though she did tell me I must go, 
Mrs. Barfield — the Saint they calls her, and she is a saint if 
ever there was one — gave me four pounds to see me, as she 
said, through my trouble. I've better than eleven pound. 



ESTHER WATERS. 9 1 

Don't cry, mother dear ; crying won't do no good, and I want 
you to help me. So long as the money holds out I can get 
a lodging anywhere, but I'd like to be near you ; and father 
might be glad to let me have the parlour and my food for ten 
or eleven shillings a week — I could afford as much as that, 
and he never was the man to turn good money from his door. 
Do yer think he will ? " 

" I dunno, dearie ; 'tis hard to say what 'e'll do ; he's a 'ard 
man to live with. I've 'ad a terrible time of it lately, and them 
babies alius coming. Ah, we poor women have more than 
our right to bear with ! " 

" Poor mother ! " said Esther, and, taking her mother's 
hand in hers, she passed her arm round her, drew her closer, 
and kissed her. " I know what he was ; is he any worse 
now ? " 

" Well, I think he drinks more, and is even rougher. It 
was only the other day, just as I was attending to his dinner — 
it was a nice piece of steak, and it looked so nice that I cut 
off a weany piece to taste. He sees me do it, and he cries 
out, ' Now then, guts, what are you interfering with my dinner 
for ? ' I says, ' I only cut off a tiny piece to taste.' ' Well, 
then, taste that,' he says, and strikes me clean between the 
eyes. Ah yes, lucky for you to be in service; you've half 
forgot by now what we've to put up with 'ere." 

"You was always that soft with him, mother; he never 
touched me since 1 dashed the hot water in his face." 

" Sometimes I thinks I can bear it no longer, Esther, and 
long to go and drown meself. Jenny and Julia — you 
remember little Julia ; she 'as grown up such a big girl, 
and is getting on so well — they are both at work now in 
the kitchen. Johnnie gives us a deal of trouble ; he cannot 
tell a word of truth ; father took off his strap the other day 
and beat him dreadful, but it ain't no use. If it wasn't 
for Jenny and Julia I don't think we should ever make 
both ends meet; but they works all day at the dogs, and 
at the warehouse their dogs is said to be neater and more 
lifelike than any other. Their poor fingers is worn away 
cramming the paper into the moulds ; but they never 
complains, nor more shouldn't I if he was a bit gentler 
and didn't take more than half of what he earns to the 
public-'ouse. I was glad you was away, Esther, for you 
alius was of an 'asty temper and couldn't 've borne it. I 



92 ESTHER WATERS. 

don't want to make my troubles seem worse than they be, 
but sometimes I think I will break up, 'special when I get 
to thinking what will become of us and all them children, 
money growing less and expenses increasing. I haven't told 
yer, but I daresay you have noticed that another one is 
coming. It is the children that breaks us poor women down 
altogether. Ah, well, yours be the hardest trouble, but you 
must put a brave face on it; we'll do the best we can; 
none of us can say no more." 

Mrs. Saunders wiped her eyes with the corner of her apron; 
Esther looked at her with her usual quiet, stubborn stare, and 
without further words mother and daughter went into the 
kitchen where the girls were at work. It was a long, low 
room with one window looking on a small back-yard, at 
the back of which was the coal-hole, the dust-bin, and a 
small outhouse. There was a long table and a bench along 
the wall. The fireplace was on the left-hand side ; the dresser 
stood against the opposite wall ; and, amid the poor crockery, 
piled about in every available space, were the toy dogs, some 
no larger than your hand, others almost as large as a small 
poodle. Jenny and Julia had been working busily for some 
days, and were now finishing the last few that remained of 
the order they had received from the shop they worked for. 
Three small children sat on the floor tearing the brown paper, 
which they handed as it was wanted to Jenny and Julia. The 
big girls leaned over the table in front of iron moulds filling 
them with brown paper, pasting it down, tucking it in with 
strong and dexterous fingers. 

"Why, it is Esther ! " said Jenny, the elder girl. "And, 
lorks, ain't she grand! — quite the lady. Why, we hardly 
knowed ye." And having kissed their sister circumspectly, 
careful not to touch the clothes they admired with their pasty 
fingers, they stood lost in contemplation, thrilled with con- 
sciousness of the advantage of service. 

Esther took Harry, a fine little boy of four, up in her arms, 
and asked him if he remembered her. 

" Naw, I don't think I do. Will oo put me down ? " 

" But you do, Lizzie ? " she said, addressing a girl of 
seven, whose bright red hair shone like a lamp in the 
gathering twilight. 

"Yes, you're my big sister; you've been away this year 
or more in service." 



ESTHER WATERS. 93 

" And you, Maggie, do you remember me too ? " 

Maggie at first seemed doubtful, but after a moment's 
reflection she nodded her head vigorously. 

"Come, Esther, see how Julia is getting on," said Mrs. 
Saunders; "she makes her dogs nearly as fast as Jenny. 
She is still a bit careless in drawing the paper into the moulds. 
Well, just as I was speaking of it : 'ere's a dog with one shoulder 
just arf the size of the other." 

"Oh, mother, I'm sure nobody'd never know the difference." 

" Wouldn't know the difference ! Just look at the hanimal ! 
Is it natural ? Sich carelessness I never seed." 

"Esther, just look at Julia's dog," cried Jenny, " 'e 'asn't got no 
more than arf a shoulder. It's lucky mother saw it, for if the 
manager'd seen it he'd have found something wrong with I don't 
know 'ow many more, and docked us maybe a shilling or more 
on the week's work." 

Julia began to cry. 

"Jenny is always down on me. She is jealous just because 
mother said I worked as fast as she did. If her work was 
overhauled " 

" There are all my dogs there on the right-hand side of the 
dresser — I always 'as the right for my dogs — and if you find one 
there with an uneven shoulder I'll " 

"Jenny is so fat that she likes everything like 'erself; that's 
why she stuffs so much paper into her dogs." 

It was little Ethel speaking from her corner, and her explana- 
tion of the excellence of Jenny's dogs, given with stolid childish 
gravity in the interval of tearing a large sheet of brown paper, 
made them laugh. But in the midst of the laughter thought 
of her great trouble came upon Esther. Mrs. Saunders noticed 
this, and a look of pity came into her eyes, and to make an end 
of the unseemly gaiety she took Julia's dog and told her that it 
must be put into the mould again. She cut the skin away, and 
helped to force the stiff paper over the edge of the mould. 

"Now," she said, "it is a dog; both shoulders is equal, and 
if it was a real dog he could walk." 

" Oh, bother ! " cried Jenny, " I shan't be able to finish my 
last dozen this evening. I 'ave no more buttons for the eyes, 
and the black pins that Julia is a-using of for her little one 
won't do for this size." 

"Won't they give yer any at the shop? I was counting on 
the money they would bring to finish the week with." 



94 ESTHER WATERS. 

11 No, we can't get no buttons in the shop : that's 'ome work, 
they says ; and even if they 'ad them they wouldn't let us put 
them in there. That's 'ome work they says to everything ; they 
is a that disagreeable lot." 

"But 'aven't you got sixpence, mother? and I'll run and get 
them." 

" No, I've run short." 

" But," said Esther, " I'll give you sixpence to get your buttons 
with." 

"Yes, that's it; give us sixpence, and yer shall have it back 
to-morrow if you are 'ere. How long are yer up for? If not, 
we'll send it." 

" I'm not going back just yet." 

" What, 'ave yer lost yer situation ? " 

" No, no," said Mrs. Saunders, " Esther ain't well — she 'as 
come up for 'er 'ealth ; take the sixpence and run along." 

" May I go too ? " said Julia. " I've been at work since eight, 
and I've only a few more dogs to do." 

" Yes, you may go with your sister. Run along ; don't bother 
me any more, I've got to get your father's supper." 

When Jenny and Julia had left Esther and Mrs. Saunders 
could talk freely, the other children were too young to under- 
stand. 

" There is times when 'e is well enough," said Mrs. 
Saunders, "and others when 'e is that awful. It is 'ard to 
know 'ow to get him, but 'e is to be got if we only knew 'ow. 
Sometimes 'tis most surprising how easy 'e do take things, and 
at others — well, as about that piece of steak that I was a-telling 
you of. Should you catch him in that humour 'e's as like as not 
to take ye by the shoulder and put you out ; but if he be in a 
good humour 'e's as like as not to say, ' Well, my gal, make yer- 
self at 'ome.'" 

" He can but turn me out. I'll leave yer to speak to 'im, 
mother." 

"I'll do my best, but I don't answer. for nothing. A nice 
bit of supper do make that difference in 'im, and as ill luck 
will 'ave it I've nothing but a rasher, whereas if I only 'ad a 
bit of steak 'e'd brighten up the moment he clapt eyes on it 
and become that cheerful." 

" But, mother, if you think it will make a difference I can 
easily slip round to the butcher's and " 

" Yes, get half a pound, and when it's nicely cooked and 



ESTHER WATERS. 95 

inside him 't'll make all the difference. That will please him. 
But I don't like to see you spending your money — money that 
you'll want badly." 

" It can't be helped, mother. I shan't be above a minute 
or two away, and I'll bring back a pint of porter with the 
steak." 

Coming back she met Jenny and Julia, and when she told 
them her purchases they remarked significantly that they were 
now quite sure of a pleasant evening. 

" When he's done eating 'e'll go out to smoke his pipe with 
some of his chaps," said Jenny, " and we shall have the 'ouse 
to ourselves, and yer can tell us all about your situation. 
They keeps a butler and a footman, don't they ? They must 
be grand folk. And what was the footman like? Was he 
very handsome? I've 'eard that they all is." 

"And you'll show us yer dresses, won't you?" said Julia. 
" How many 'ave you got, and 'ow did yer manage to save up 
enough money to buy such beauties, if they're all like that ? " 

" This dress was given to me by Miss Mary." 

" Was it ? She must be a real good 'un. I should like 
to go to service ; I'm tired of making dogs ; we have to work 
that 'ard, and it nearly all goes to the public ; father drinks 
worse than ever." 

Mrs. Saunders approved of Esther's purchase ; it was a 
beautiful bit of steak. The fire was raked up, and a few 
minutes after the meat was roasting on the gridiron. The 
clock continued its coarse ticking amid the rough plates on the 
dresser. Jenny and Julia hastened with their work, pressing 
the paper with nervous fingers into the moulds, calling sharply 
to the little group for what sized paper they required. Esther 
and Mrs. Saunders waited, full of apprehension, for the sound 
of a heavy tread in the passage. At last it came. Mrs. 
Saunders turned the meat, hoping that its savoury odour would 
greet his nostrils from afar, and that he would come to them 
mollified and amiable. 

"Hullo, Jim; yer are 'ome a bit earlier to-day. I'm not 
quite ready with yer supper." 

" I dunno that I am. Hullo, Esther ! Up for the day ? 
Smells damned nice, what you're cooking for me, missus. 
What is it?" 

" Bit of steak, Jim. It seems a beautiful piece. Hope it 
will eat tender." 



96 ESTHER WATERS. 

"That it will. I was affeared you would have nothing more 
than a rasher, and I'm that 'ungry." 

Jim Saunders was a stout, dark man about forty. He had 
not shaved for some days, and his face was black with beard ; 
his moustache was cut into bristle. Around his short, bull 
neck he wore a ragged comforter, his blue jacket was shabby 
and dusty, and the trousers were worn at the heels. He 
threw his basket into a corner, and then himself on the 
rough bench nailed against the wall, and there, without speaking 
another word, he lay sniffing the odour of the meat like an 
animal going to be fed. Suddenly a whiff from the beer jug 
came into his nostrils, and reaching out his rough hand he 
looked into the jug to assure himself he was not mistaken. 

"What's this?" he exclaimed; "a pint of porter! Yer are 
doing me pretty well this evening, I reckon. What's up ? " 

" Nothing, Jim ; nothing, dear, but just as Esther has come 
up we thought we'd try to make yer comfortable. It was 
Esther who fetched it ; she 'as been doing pretty well, and can 
afford it" 

Jim looked at Esther in a sort of vague and brutal astonish- 
ment, and feeling he must say something, and not knowing 
well what, he said — ■ 

" Well, 'ere's to your good health ! " and he took a long pull 
at the jug. " Where did you get this ? " 

" In Durham Street, at the ' Angel.' " 

" I thought as much ; they don't sell stuff like this at the 
* Rose and Crown.' Well, much obliged to yer. I shall enjoy 
my bit of steak now ; and I see a tater in the cinders. How 
are yer getting on, old woman — is it nearly done ? Yer know 
I don't like all the goodness burnt out of it." 

" It isn't quite done yet, Jim ; a few minutes more " 

Jim sniffed in eager anticipation, and then addressed himself 
to Esther. 

" Well, they seem to do yer pretty well down there. My 
word, what a toff yer are! Quite the lady. . . . There's 
nothing like service for a girl ; I've always said so. Eh, Jenny, 
wouldn't yer like to go into service, like yer sister? Looks 
better, don't it, than making toy dogs at three-and-sixpence the 
gross ? " 

" I should just think it was. I wish I could. As soon as 
Maggie can take my place, I mean to try." 

"It was the young lady of the 'ouse that gave 'er that 



ESTHER WATERS. 9? 

nice dress," said Julia. " My eye ! she must have been a 
favourite." 

At that moment Mrs. Saunders picked the steak from the 
gridiron, and putting it on a nice hot plate she carried it in her 
apron to Jim, saying, "Mind yer 'ands, it is burning 'ot." 

Jim fed in a hungry silence, the children watching, regret- 
ting that none of them ever had suppers like that. He didn't 
speak until he had put away the better part of the steak ; then, 
after taking a long pull at the jug of beer, he said — 

" I 'aven't enjoyed a bit of food like that this many a day ; 
I was that beat when I came in, and it does do one good to put 
a piece of honest meat into one's stomach after a 'ard day's 
work ! " 

Then, prompted by a sudden thought, he complimented 
Esther on her looks, and then, with increasing interest, inquired 
what kind of people she was staying with. But Esther was in 
no humour for conversation, and answered his questions briefly 
without entering into details. Her reserve only increased his 
curiosity, which fired up at the first mention of the race- 
horses. 

" I scarcely know much about them. I only used to see 
them passing through the yard as they went to exercise on the 
downs. There was always a lot of talk about -them in the 
servants' hall, but I didn't notice it. They were a great trouble 
to Mrs. Barfield — I told you, mother, that she was one of our- 
selves, didn't I ? " 

A look of contempt passed over Jim's face, and he said — 

"We've quite enough talk 'ere about the Brethren; give 
them a rest. What about the 'orses? Did they win any 
races ? Yer can't 'ave missed 'earing that." 

" Yes, Silver Braid won the Stewards' Cup." 

" Silver Braid was one of your horses ? " 

"Yes; Mr. Barfield won thousands and thousands, every 
one in Shoreham won something, and a ball for the servants 
was given in the Gardens." 

" And you never thought of writing to me about it ! I 
could have 'ad thirty to one off Bill Short. One pound 
ten to a bob ! And yer never thought it worth while 
to send me the tip. I'm blowed ! Girls aren't worth a 
damn. . . . Thirty to one off Bill Short — he'd have laid it. I 
remember seeing the price quoted in all the papers. Thirty to 
one taken and hoffered. If you had told me all yer knowed I 

7 



98 ESTHER WATERS. 

might 'ave gone 'alf a quid — fifteen pun to 'alf a quid ! as 
much as I'd earn in three months slaving eight and ten hours 
a day, paint-pot on 'and about them blooming engines. Well, 
there's no use crying over what's done — sich a chance won't 
come again, but something else may. What are they going to 
do with the 'orse this autumn — did yer 'ear that ? " 

" I think I 'eard that he was entered for the Cambridge- 
shire, but if I remember rightly, Mr. Leopold — that's the 
butler, not his real name, but what we call him " 

" Ah, yes ; I know ; after the Baron. Now what do 'e 
say? I reckon 'e knows. I should like to 've 'alf-an-hour's 
talk with your Mr. Leopold. What do 'e say ? For what 'e 
says, unless I'm pretty well mistaken, is worth listening to. A 
man wouldn't be a-wasting 'is time in listening to 'im. What 
do 'e say ? " 

" Mr. Leopold never says much. He's the only one the 
Gaffer ever confides in. 'Tis said they are as thick as thieves, 
so they say. Mr. Leopold was his confidential servant when 
the Gaffer — that's the squire — was a bachelor." 

Jim chuckled. "Yes, I think I know what kind of man 
your Mr. Leopold is like. But what did 'e say about the 
Cambridgeshire ? " 

" He only laughed a little once, and said he didn't think the 
'orse would do much good in the autumn races — no, not races, 
that isn't the word." 

"Handicaps?" 

" Yes, that's it. But there's no relying on what Mr. 
Leopold says — he never says what he really means. But I 
'eard William, that's the footman " 

" What are you stopping for ? What did yer 'ear 'im say ? " 

"That he intends to have something on next spring." 

" Did he say any race ? Did he say the City and Sub. ? " 

11 Yes, that was the race he mentioned." 

" I thought that would be about the length and the breadth 
of it," Jim said, as he took up his knife and fork. There was 
only a small portion of the beef-steak left, and this he ate 
gluttonously, and, finishing the last remaining beer, he leaned 
back in the happiness of repletion. He crammed tobacco into 
a dirty clay with a dirtier finger-nail, and said — 

" I'd be uncommon glad to hear how he is getting on. When 
are you going back ? Up for the day only ? " 

Esther did not answer, and Jim looked inquiringly as 



ESTHER WATERS. 99 

he reached across the table for the matches. The decisive 
moment had arrived, and Mrs. Saunders said — 

" Esther ain't a-going back ; leastways " 

" Not going back ! You don't mean that she ain't contented 
in her sitooation — that she 'as " 

" Esther ain't going back no more," Mrs. Saunders answered, 
incautiously. " Lookee 'ere, Jim " 

"Out with it, old woman — no 'umbug! What is it all 
about ? Ain't going back to 'er sitooation, and where she 'as 
been treated like that — just look at the duds she 'as got on." 

The evening was darkening rapidly, and the firelight 
flickered over the back of the toy dogs piled up on the dresser. 
Jim had lit his pipe, and the acrid and warm odour of 
quickly burning tobacco overpowered the smell of grease 
and the burnt skin of the baked potato, a fragment of which 
remained on the plate; only the sickly flavour of drying 
paste was distinguishable in the reek of the short, black clay 
which the man held firmly between his teeth. Esther sat by 
the fire, her hands crossed over her knees, no signs of emotion 
on her sullen, plump face. Mrs. Saunders stood on the other 
side of Esther, between her and the younger children, now 
quarrelling among themselves, and her face was full of fear 
as she watched her husband anxiously. 

" Now then, old woman, blurt it out ! " he said. " What is 
it? Can it be the girl 'as lost 'er sitooation —got the sack? 
Yes, I see that's about the cut of it. Her beastly temper ! 
So they couldn't put up with it in the country any more than I 
could mesel'. Well, it's 'er own look-out ! If she can afford 
to chuck up a place like that, so much the better for 'er. 
Pity though; she might 'ave put me up to many a good 
thing." 

" It ain't that, Jim. The girl is in trouble." 

"Wot do yer say? Esther in trouble? Well, that's the 
best bit I've heard this long while. I always told ye that the 
religious ones were just the same as the others — a bit more 
hypocritical, that's all. So she that wouldn't 've nothing to do 
with such as was Mrs. Dunbar 'as got 'erself into trouble ! 
Well I never ! But 'tis just what I always suspected. The 
goody-goody sort are the worst. So she 'as got 'erself into 
trouble ! Well, she'll 'ave to get 'erself out of it." 

" Now, Jim dear, yer mustn't be 'ard on 'er ; she could tell 
a very different story if she wished it, but yer know what she 



IOO ESTHER WATERS. 

is. There she sits like a block of marble, and won't as much 
as say a word in 'er own defence." 

" But I don't want 'er to speak. I don't care, it's nothing 
to me ; I only laughed because " 

" Jim, dear, it is something to all of us. What we thought 
was, that you might let her stop 'ere till her time was come to 
go to the 'orspital." 

"Ah, that's it, is it? That was the meaning of the 'alf- 
pound of steak and the pint of porter, was it? I thought 
there was somethink hup. So she wants to stop 'ere, do she ? 
As if there wasn't enough already ! Well, I be blowed if she 
do ! A nice thing, too ; a girl can't go away to service without 
coming back to her respectable 'ome in trouble — in trouble, 
she calls it. Now I won't 'ave it ; there's enough 'ere as it is, 
and another coming, worse luck. We wants no bastards 'ere. 
. . . And a nice example, too, for the other children ! No, I 
won't 'ave it ! " 

Jenny and Julia looked curiously at Esther, who sat quite 
still, her face showing no sign of emotion. Mrs. Saunders 
turned towards her, a pitying look on her face, saying clearly, 
"You see, my poor girl, how matters stand; I can do 
nothing." 

The girl, although she did not raise her eyes, understood 
what was passing in her mother's mind, for there was a grave 
deliberativeness in the manner in which she rose from the 
chair. 

But just as the daughter had guessed what was passing in 
the mother's mind, so did the mother guess what was passing 
in the daughter's. Mrs. Saunders threw herself before Esther, 
saying, " Oh no, Esther, wait a moment ; 'e won't be 'ard on 
'ee." Then turning to her husband, " Yer don't understand, 
Jim. It is only for a little time." 

" No, I tell yer. No, I won't 'ave it ! There be too many 
'ere as it is." 

" Only a little while, Jim." 

" No. And those who ain't wanted 'ad better go at once — 
that's my advice to them. The place is as full of us that 
we can 'ardly turn round as it is. No, I won't 'ear of it ! " 

" But, Jim, Esther is quite willing to pay her way ; she's 
saved a good little sum of money, and could afford to pay 
us ten shillings a week for board and the parlour." 

A perplexed look came on Jim's face. 



ESTHER WATERS. IOI 

"Why didn't yer tell me that afore? Of course I don't 
wish to be 'ard on the girl, as yer 'ave just 'eard me say. Ten 
shillings a week for her board and the parlour — that seems 
fair enough; and if it's any convenience to 'er to remain, 
I'm sure we'll be glad to 'ave 'er. I'll say right glad, too. 
We was always good friends, Esther, wasn't we, though ye 
wasn't one of my own ? " So saying Jim held out his hand. 

Esther tried to pass by her mother. " I don't want to stop 
where I'm not wanted ; I wants no one's charity. Let me go,, 
mother." 

"No, no, Esther. 'Aven't yer 'eard what 'e says ? Ye are 
my child if you ain't 'is, and it would break my 'eart, that 
it would, to see you go away among strangers. Yer place 
is among yer own people, who'll look after you." 

"Now then, Esther, why should there be ill feeling. I 
didn't mean any 'arm. There's a lot of us 'ere, and I've 
to think of the interests of my own. But for all that I should 
be main sorry to see yer take yer money among strangers, 
where you wouldn't get no value for it. You'd better stop. 
I'm sorry for what I said. Ain't that enough for yer ? " 

" Jim, Jim dear, don't say no more ; leave 'er to me. 
Esther, for my sake stop with us. You are in trouble, and it 
is right for you to stop with me. Jim 'as said no more than 
the truth. With all the best will in the world we couldn't 
afford to keep yer for nothing, but since yer can pay yer way, 
it is yer duty to stop. Think, Esther dear, think. Go and 
shake 'ands with 'im, and I'll go and make yer up a bed on 
the sofa." 

"There's no bloody need for 'er to shake my 'and if she 
don't like," Jim replied, and he pulled doggedly at his pipe. 

Esther tried, but her fierce and heavy temper held her back. 
She couldn't go to her father for reconciliation, and the matter 
might have ended quite differently, but suddenly, without 
another word, Jim put on his hat and went out to join " his 
chaps " who were waiting for him about the public-house, close 
to the cab-rank in the Vauxhall Bridge Road. A sensation 
of relief came upon every one. The young children laughed 
and ran about joyously, and Jenny and Julia went over to 
Esther and begged her to stop. 

" Of course she'll stop," said Mrs. Saunders. " And now, 
Esther, come along and help me to make you up a bed in the 
parlour." 



/ 



102 ESTHER WATERS, 



XIV. 

Esther was fast asleep next morning when Mrs. Saunders 
came into the parlour. Mrs. Saunders stood looking at her. 
Esther turned suddenly on the sofa and said — 

" What time is it, mother ? " 

" It's gone six ; but don't you get up. You're your own 
mistress whilst you're here; you pays for what you 'as." 

" I can't afford them lazy habits. There's plenty of work 
here, and I must help you with some of it." 

" Plenty of work here, that's right enough. But why should 
you bother, and you nearly seven months gone ? I daresay 
you feels that 'eavy that you never care to get out of your 
chair. But they says that them who works up to the last 'as 
the easiest time in the end. Not that I've found it so." 

The conversation paused. Esther threw her legs over the 
side of the sofa, and, still wrapped in the blanket, sat looking 
at her mother. 

"You can't be over-comfortable on that bit of sofa," said 
Mrs. Saunders. 

" Lor, I can manage right enough, if that was all." 

"You is that cast down, Esther; you mustn't give way. 
Things sometimes turns out better than one expects." 

" You never found they did, mother." 

" Perhaps I didn't, but that says nothing for others. We 
must bear up as best we can." 

One word led to another, and very soon Esther was telling 
her mother the whole tale of her misfortune — all about William, 
the sweepstakes, the ball at the Shoreham Gardens, the walks 
about the farm and hill-side. 

" Service is no place for a girl who wants to live as we used 
to live when father was alive — no service that I've seen. I 
see that plain enough. Mistress was one of the Brethren 
like ourselves, and she had to put up with betting and drink- 



ESTHER WATERS. 103 

ing and dancing, and never a thought of the Lord. There 
was no standing out against it. They call you Creeping 

J if you say your prayers, and you can't say them with 

a girl laughing or singing behind your back, so you think 
you'll say them to yourself in bed, but sleep comes sooner than 
you expect, and so you slips out of the habit. Then the drink- 
ing. We was brought up teetotal, but they're always pressing 
it upon you, and to please him I said I would drink the 'orse's 
'ealth. That's how it began. . . . You don't know what it is, 
mother; you only knew God-fearing men until you married him. 
We aren't all good like you, mother. But I thought no harm, 
indeed I didn't." 

"A girl can't know what a man is thinking of; and we takes 
the worst for the best." 

"I don't say that I was altogether blameless, but -" 

" You didn't know he was that bad." 

Esther hesitated. 

"I knew he was like other men. But he told me — he 
promised me he'd marry me." 

Mrs. Saunders did not answer, and Esther said, " You don't 
believe I'm speaking the truth." 

"Yes I do, dearie. I was only thinking. You're my 
daughter; no mother had a better daughter. There never 
was a better girl in this world." 

" I was telling you, mother " 

" But I don't want no telling that my Esther ain't a bad 
girl." 

Mrs. Saunders sat nodding her head, a sweet uncritical 
mother; and Esther understood how unselfishly her mother 
loved her, and how simply she thought of how she might help 
her in her trouble. Neither spoke, and Esther continued 
dressing. At the end of a long silence Mrs. Saunders said — 

" You 'aven't told me what you think of your room. It looks 
pretty, don't you think ? I keeps it as nice as I can. Jenny 
hung up them pictures. They livens it up a bit," she said, 
pointing to the coloured supplements, from the illustrated 
papers, on the wall. "The china shepherd and shepherdess 
you know, they was at Barnstaple." 

When Esther was dressed, she and Mrs. Saunders knelt 
down and said a prayer together. Then Esther said she 
would make up her room, and when that was done she insisted 
on helping her mother with the housework. 



104 ESTHER WATERS. 

In the afternoon she sat with her sisters, helping them with 
their dogs, folding the paper into the moulds, pasting it down, 
or cutting the skins into the requisite sizes. About five, when 
the children had had their tea, she and her mother went for a 
short walk. Very often they strolled through Victoria Station, 
amused by the bustle of the traffic, or else they would wander 
down the Buckingham Palace Road, attracted by the shops. 
There was a sad pleasure in these walks. The elder woman 
had borne years of exceeding trouble, and felt her strength 
failing under her burdens, which instead of lightening were 
increasing; the younger woman was full of nervous apprehen- 
sion for the future and grief for the past. But they loved each 
other deeply. Esther threw herself in the way to protect her 
mother, whether at a dangerous crossing or from the heedless- 
ness of the crowd at a corner, and often a passer-by turned his 
head and looked after them, attracted by the solicitude which 
the younger woman showed for the elder. In those walks very 
little was said. They walked in silence, slipping now and then 
into occasional speech, and here and there a casual allusion or 
a broken sentence would indicate what was passing in their 
minds. 

One day some flannel and shirts in a window caught Mrs. 
Saunders' eye, and she said — 

" It is time, Esther, you thought about your baby clothes. 
One must be prepared; one never knows if one will go one's 
full time." 

The words came upon Esther with something of a shock, 
helping her to realise the imminence of her trouble. 

" You must have something by you, dear ; one never knows 
how it is going to turn out; even I who have been through it 
do feel that nervous. I looks round the kitchen when I'm 
taken with the pains, and I says I may never see this room 
again." 

The words were said in an undertone to Esther, and the 
shopwoman turned to get down the ready-made things which 
Mrs. Saunders had asked to see. 

" Here," said the shopwoman, " is the gown, longcloth, one- 
and-sixpence ; here is the flannel, one-and-sixpence ; and here 
is the little shirt, sixpence." 

" You must have these to go on with, dear, and if the baby 
lives you'll want another set." 

" Oh, mother, of course he'll live ; why shouldn't he ? " 



ESTHER WATERS. 105 

Even the shop woman smiled, and Mrs. Saunders, address- 
ing the shopwoman, said — 

"Them that knows nothing about it is alius full of 'ope." 

The shopwoman raised her eyes, sighed, and inquired 
sympathetically if this was the young lady's first confinement. 

Mrs. Saunders nodded and sighed, and then the shopwoman 
asked Mrs. Saunders if she required any baby clothes. Mrs. 
Saunders said she had all she required. The parcel was made 
up, and they were preparing to leave, when Esther said — 

" I may as well buy the material and make another set — it 
will give me something to do in the afternoons. I think I 
should like to make them." 

"We have some first-rate longcloth at sixpence-halfpenny 
a yard." 

"You might take three yards, Esther; if anything should 
happen to yer bairn it will always come in useful. And you 
had better take three yards of flannel. How much is yer 
flannel?" 

" We have some excellent flannel," said the woman, lifting 
down a long, heavy package in dull yellow paper; "this is 
tenpence a yard. You will want a finer longcloth for the little 
shirts." 

And every afternoon Esther sat in the parlour by the window, 
seeing when she raised her eyes from the sewing the low brick 
street full of children, and hearing the working women calling 
from the open doors or windows ; and as she worked at the 
baby clothes, never perhaps to be worn, her heart sank at the 
long prospect that awaited her, the end of which she could 
not see, for it seemed to reach to the very end of her life. 
In these hours she realised in some measure the duties that 
life held in store, and it seemed to her that they exceeded her 
strength. Never would she be able to bring him up : he 
would have no one to look to but her. (She never imagined 
other than that her child would be a boy.) The task was 
clearly more than she could perform, and in despair she thought 
it would be better for it to die. What would happen if she re- 
mained out of a situation ? Her father would not have her at 
home, that she knew well enough. What should she do ? the 
life of another dependent on her ! She would never see William 
again, that was certain. He had married a lady, and, were they 
to meet, he would not look at her. Her temper grew hot, and 
the memory of the injustice of which she had been a victim 



106 ESTHER WATERS. 

pressed upon her. But when vain anger passed away 
she thought of her baby, anticipating the joy she would 
experience when he held out tiny hands to her, and that 
too which she would feel when he laid an innocent cheek to 
hers ; and her dream persisting, she saw him learning a trade, 
going to work in the morning and coming back to her in the 
evening, proud in the accomplishment of something done, of 
good money honestly earned. 

She thought a great deal, too, of her poor mother, who was 
looking strangely weak and poorly, and whose condition was 
rendered worse by her nervous fears that she would not get 
through this confinement. For the doctor had told Mrs. 
Saunders that next time it might go hard with her ; and in this 
house, her husband growing more reckless and drunken, it was 
altogether a bad look-out, and she might die for want of a 
little nourishment or a little care. Unfortunately they would 
both be down at the same time, and it was almost impossible 
that she would be well enough in time to look after her 
mother. That brute ! It was wrong to think of her father 
so, but he seemed to be without mercy for any of them. He 
had come in yesterday half-boosed, having kept back part of his 
money — he had come in tramping and hiccuping, " Now then, 
old girl, out with it ! I must 'ave a few halfpence ; my chaps 
is waiting for me, and I can't be looking down their mouths 
with nothing in my pockets." 

" I only have a few halfpence to get the children a bit 
of dinner ; if I give them to you they'll have nothing to eat." 

" Oh, the children can eat anything ; I want beer. If yer 
'aven't money, make it." 

Mrs. Saunders said that if he had any spare clothes she 
would take them round the corner. He only answered — 

" Well, if I 'aven't a spare waistcoat left just take some of 
yer own things. I tell yer I want beer, and I mean to have 
some." 

Then, with his fist raised, he came at his poor wife, 
ordering her to take one of the sheets from the bed and 
"make money," and would have struck her, if she — 
Esther — had not come between them, and with her hand in 
her pocket, said, " Be quiet, father ; I'll give you the money 
you want." 

She had done the same before, and, if needs be, she would 
do so again. She could not see her mother struck, perhaps 



ESTHER WATERS. 107 

killed, by that brute ; her first duty was to save her mother, 
but these constant demands on her little savings filled her 
with terror; she would want every penny she had; the ten 
shillings he had already had from her might be the very 
sum required to put her on her feet again, and send her 
in search of a situation where she would be able to earn 
money for the boy. But if this continued she did not 
know what she would do, and that night she prayed that 
God might not delay the birth of her child. 



IOS ESTHER WATERS. 



XV. 

" I wish, mother, you was going to the hospital with me; it 
would save a lot of expense and you'd be better cared for." 

" I'd like to be with you, dearie, but I can't leave my 'ome, 
all these young children about and no one to give an order. I 
must stop where I am. But I've been intending to tell you — 
it is time that you was thinking about yer letter." 

"What letter, mother?" 

" They don't take you without a letter from one of the sub- 
scribers. If I was you, now that the weather is fine and you 
have strength for the walk, I'd go up to Queen Charlotte's. 
It is up the Edgware Road way, I think. What do you think 
about to-morrow ? " 

" To-morrow's Sunday." 

" That makes no matter, them horspitals is open." 

" I'll go to-morrow when we have washed up." 

On Friday Esther had had to give her father more money 
for drink. She gave him two shillings, and that made a 
sovereign that he had had from her. On Saturday night he 
had been brought home helplessly drunk long after midnight, 
and next morning one of the girls had to fetch him a drop of 
something to pull him together. He had lain in bed until 
dinner-time, swearing he would brain any one who made the 
least noise. Even the Sunday dinner, a nice beef-steak pud- 
ding, hardly tempted him, and he left the table saying if he 
could find Tom Carter that they would take a penny boat and 
go for a blow on the river. The whole family waited for his 
departure. But he lingered, talked inconsequently, and several 
times Mrs. Saunders and the children gave up hope. Esther 
sat without a word; he called her a sulky brute, and, snatching 
up his hat, he left the house. The moment he was gone the 
children began to chatter like birds. Esther put on her hat 
and jacket. 



ESTHER WATERS. 109 

" I'm going, mother." 

"Well, take care of yourself. Good luck to you." 

Esther smiled sadly. But the beautiful weather melted on 
her lips, her lungs swelled with the warm air, and she noticed 
the sparrow that flew across the cab rank, and saw the black 
dot pass down a mews and disappear under the eaves. It was 
a warm day in the middle of April ; a mist of green had begun 
in the branches of the elms of the Green Park; and in Park 
Lane, in all the balconies and gardens wherever nature could 
find roothold a spray of gentle green met the eye. Further on 
omnibuses could be seen going up and down Oxford Street. 
There was music, too, in the air, the sound of fifes and drums, 
and all along the roadway as far as she could see the rapid 
movement of assembling crowds. A procession with banners 
was turning the corner of the Edgware Road, and the police- 
man had stopped the traffic to allow it to pass. The principal 
banner blew out blue and gold in the wind, and the men 
that bore the poles walked with strained backs under the 
weight; the music clanged, opinions about the objects of the 
demonstration were exchanged, and it was some time before 
Esther could gain the policeman's attention. At last the con- 
ductor rang his bell, the omnibus started, and gathering courage 
she asked the way. It seemed to her that every one w r as 
noticing her, and fearing to be overheard she spoke so low that 
the policeman understood her to say Charlotte Street. At that 
moment an omnibus drew up close beside them. 

"Charlotte Street, Charlotte Street," said the policeman, 
" there's Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury." Before Esther could 
answer he had turned to the conductor. "You don't know 
any Charlotte Street about here, do you ? " 

" No, I don't. But can't yer see that it ain't no Charlotte 
Street she wants, but Queen Charlotte's Hospital ? And ye'd 
better lose no time in directing her." 

A roar of coarse laughter greeted this pleasantry, and burn- 
ing with shame she hurried down the Edgware Road. But 
she had not gone far before she had to ask again, and she 
scanned the passers-by seeking some respectable woman or in 
default an innocent child. 

She came at last to an ugly desert place. There was the 
hospital, square, forbidding ; and opposite a tall, lean building 
with long grey columns. Esther rang, and the great door, 
some fifteen feet high, was opened by a small boy. 



110 ESTHER WATERS. 

" I want to see the secretary. Is the gentleman in ? " 

" Yes. Will you come this way ? " 

She was shown into a waiting-room, and while waiting she 
looked at the religious prints on the walls. A lad of fifteen or 
sixteen came in. He said — 

" You want to see the secretary ? " 

" Yes." 

" But I'm afraid you can't see him ; he's out." 

" I have come a long way ; is there no one else I can see ? " 

" Yes, you can see me ; I'm his clerk. Have you come to 
be confined ? " 

Esther answered that she had. 

" But," said the boy, " you are not in labour ; wc never take 
any one in before." 

" I do not expect to be confined for another month. * I came 
to make arrangements." 

"You've got a letter?" 

"No." 

" Then you must get a letter from one of the subscribers." 

" But I do not know any." 

" You can have a book of their names and addresses." 

" But I know no one." 

"You needn't know them. You can go and call. Take 
those that live nearest — that's the way it is done." 

" Then will you give me the book ? " 

" I'll go and get one." 

The boy returned a moment after with a small book for 
which he demanded a shilling. Since she had come to London 
her hand had never been out of her pocket. She had her 
money with her ; she did not dare leave it at home on account 
of her father. The clerk looked out the addresses for her and 
she tried to remember them — two were in Cumberland Place, 
another was in Bryanstone Square. In Cumberland Place she 
was received by an elderly lady who said she did not wish to 
judge any one, but it was her invariable practice to give letters 
only to married women. There was a delicate smell of per- 
fume in the room ; the lady stirred the fire and lay back in her 
arm-chair. Once or twice Esther tried to withdraw, but the 
lady, although unswervingly faithful to her principles, seemed 
not indifferent to Esther's story, and asked her many questions. 

" I don't see what interest all that can be to you as you ain't 
going to give me a letter," Esther answered. 



ESTHER WATERS. Ill 

The next house she called at the lady was not at home, but 
she was expected back presently, and the maidservant asked 
her to take a seat in the hall. But when Esther refused in- 
formation about her troubles she was called a stuck-up thing 
who deserved all she got, and was told there was no use her 
waiting. At the next place she was received by a footman who 
insisted on her communicating her business to him. Then he 
said he would see if his master was in. He wasn't in ; he 
must have just gone out. The best time to find him was 
before half-past ten in the morning. 

" He'll be sure to do all he can for you — he always do for 
the good-looking ones. How did it all happen ? " 

" What business is that of yours ? I don't ask your business." 

" Well, you needn't turn that rusty." 

At that moment the master entered. He asked Esther to 
come into his study. He was a tall, youngish-looking man of 
three or four-and-thirty, with bright eyes and hair, and there 
was in his voice and manner a kindness that impressed Esther. 
She wished, however, that she had seen his mother instead of 
him, for she was more than ever ashamed of her condition. 
He seemed genuinely sorry for her, and regretted that he 
had given all his tickets away. Then a thought struck him, 
and' he wrote a letter to one of his friends, a banker in 
Lincoln's Inn Fields. This gentleman, he said, was a large sub- 
scriber to the hospital, and would certainly give her the letter 
she required. He hoped that Esther would get through her 
trouble all right. 

The visit brought a little comfort into the girl's heart ; and 
thinking of his kind eyes she walked slowly, inquiring out her 
way until she got back to the Marble Arch, and stood looking 
down the long Bayswater Road. The lamps were beginning 
in the light, and the tall houses towered above the sunset. 
Esther watched the spectral city, and some sensation of the 
poetry of the hour must have stolen into her heart, for she 
turned into the Park, choosing to walk there. Upon its dim 
green grey the scattered crowds were like strips of black tape. 
Here and there by the railings the tape had been wound up in 
a black ball, and the peg was some democratic orator, promis- 
ing poor human nature unconditional deliverance from evil. 
Further on were heard sounds from a harmonium, and hymns 
were being sung, and in each doubting face there was some- 
thing of the perplexing, haunting look which the city wore. 



112 ESTHER WATERS. 

A chill wind was blowing, winter had returned with the 
night, but the instinct of spring continued in the branches. 
The deep, sweet scent of the hyacinth floated along the railings, 
and the lovers that sat with their arms about each other on 
every seat were of Esther's own class. She would have liked 
to have called them round her and told them her miserable 
story, so that they might profit by her experience. 



ESTHER WATERS. II3 



XVI. 

No more than three weeks now remained between her and 
the dreaded day. She had hoped to spend them with her 
mother, who was timorous and desponding, and stood in need 
of consolation. But this was not to be ; her father's drunken- 
ness continued, and daily he became more extortionate in his 
demands for money. Esther had not six pounds left, and she 
felt that she must leave ; it had come to this, that she doubted 
if she were to stay on that the clothes on her back might not 
be taken from her. Mrs. Saunders was of the same opinion, 
and she urged Esther to go. But Esther felt great scruples in 
leaving her mother. 

" I can't bring myself to leave you, mother ; something tells 
me I should stay with you. It is dreadful to be parted from 
you. I wish you was coming to the hospital; you'd be far 
safer there than at home." 

" I know that, dearie ; but where's the good in talking about 
it ? It only makes it harder to bear. You know I can't leave. 
It is terrible hard, as you says " — Mrs. Saunders held her apron 
to her eyes and cried — " You have always been a good girl, 
never a better — my one consolation since your poor father 
died." 

"Don't cry, mother," said Esther; "the Lord will watch 
over us, and we shall both pray for each other. In about a 
month, dear, we shall be both quite well, and you'll bless my 
baby, and I shall think of the time when I shall put him into 
your arms." 

" I hope so, Esther ; I hope so, but I am full of fears. I'm 
sore afraid that we shall never see one another again — least- 
ways on this earth." 

" Oh, mother dear, yer mustn't talk like that, you'll break 
my heart, that you will." 

The cab that took Esther to her lodging cost half-a-crown, 

8 



114 ESTHER WATERS. 

and this waste of money frightened her thrifty nature, inherited 
through centuries of working folk. The waste, however, had 
ceased at last, and it was none too soon, she thought, as she 
sat in the room she had taken near the hospital, in a little 
eight-roomed house, kept by an old woman whose son was a 
bricklayer. 

A week passed away, and then one afternoon, as Esther was 
sitting alone in her room, there came within her a great and 
sudden shock : life seemed to be slipping from her, and she 
sat for some minutes quite unable to move, and all the while 
a gnawing pain stirred between her shoulders. She knew 
that her time had come, and when the pain ceased she went 
downstairs to consult Mrs. Jones. 

" Hadn't I better go to the hospital now, Mrs. Jones ? " 

" Not just yet, my dear ; them is but the first labour pains ; 
plenty of time to think of the hospital ; we'll see how you are 
in a couple of hours." 

"Will it last so long as that?" 

" You'll be lucky if you get it over before midnight. I have 
been down for longer than that." 

" Do you mind my stopping in the kitchen with you ? I 
feel frightened when I'm alone." 

" No, I'll be glad of your company. I'll get you some tea 
presently." 

" I could not touch anything. Oh, this is dreadful ! " she 
exclaimed, and she walked to and fro holding her sides, 
balancing herself dolefully. Often Mrs. Jones stopped in her 
work about the range and said, looking at her, " I know what 
it is, I have been through it many a time, we all must, it is our 
earthly lot." About seven o'clock Esther was clinging to the 
table, and with pain so vivid on her face that Mrs. Jones laid 
aside the sausages she was cooking and approached the 
suffering girl. 

" What, is it so bad as all that ? " 

"Oh," she said, "I think I'm dying, I cannot stand up; 
give me a chair, give me a chair ! " and she sank down upon 
it, leaning across the table, her face and neck bathed in a 
cold sweat. 

"John will have to get his supper himself; I'll leave these 
sausages on the hob, and run upstairs and put on my bonnet : 
the things you intend to bring with you, the baby clothes, 
are made up in a bundle, aren't they? " 



ESTHER WATERS. 115 

"Yes, yes." 

Little Mrs. Jones came running down ; she threw a shawl 
over Esther, and it was astonishing what support she lent 
to the suffering girl, calling on her the whole time to lean 
on her and not to be afraid. " Now then, dear, you must keep 
your heart up, we have only a few yards further to go." 

" You are too good, you are too kind," Esther said, and she 
leaned against the wall, and Mrs. Jones rang the bell. 

"Keep up your spirits; to-morrow it will be all over. I 
will come round and see how you are." 

The door opened. The porter rang a bell, and a sister 
came running down. 

"Come, come, take my arm," she said, "and breathe hard 
as you are ascending the stairs. Come along, you mustn't 
loiter." 

On the second landing a door was thrown open, and she 
found herself in a room full of people, eight or nine young men 
and women. 

" What ! in there ? and all those people ? " said Esther. 

" Of course, those are the midwives and the students." 

She saw that the screams she had heard in the passage 
proceeded from the bed on the left-hand side. A woman 
lay there huddled up. And in the midst of her terror 
Esther was taken behind a screen by the sister who had 
brought her upstairs and quickly undressed. She was clothed 
in a chemise a greal deal too big for her, and a jacket which 
was also many sizes too large. She remembered hearing the 
sister say so at the time. Both windows were wide open, and 
as she walked across the room she noticed the basins on the 
floor, the lamp on the round table, and the glint of steel 
instruments. 

The students and the nurses were behind her; she knew 
they were eating sweets, for she heard a young man ask the 
young women if they would have any more fondants. Their 
chatter and laughter jarred on her nerves; but at that 
moment her pains began again, and she saw the young man 
whom she had seen handing the sweets approaching her bed- 
side. 

" Oh, no, not him, not him ! " she cried to the nurse. 
"Not him, not him ! he is too young ! Do not let him come 
near me ! " 

They laughed loudly, and she buried her head in the pillow, 



Il6 ESTHER WATERS. 

overcome with pain and shame; and when she felt him by her 
she tried to rise from the bed. 

" Let me go ! take me away ! Oh, you are all beasts ! " 

" Come, come, no nonsense ! " said the nurse ; " you can't 
have what you like, they are here to learn ; " and when he had 
tried the pains she heard the midwife say that it wasn't neces- 
sary to send for the doctor. Another said that it would be all 
over in about three hours' time. "An easy confinement, I 
should say. The other will be more interesting. . . ." Then 
they talked of the plays they had seen, and those they wished 
to see. A discussion arose regarding the merits of a shilling 
novel which every one was reading, and then Esther heard a 
stampede of nurses, midwives, and students in the direction of 
the window. A German band had come into the street. 

"Is that the way to leave your patient, sister?" said the 
student who sat by Esther's bed. A good-looking boy with 
a fair, plump face. Esther looked into his clear blue, girl-like 
eyes, wondered, and turned away for shame. 

The sister stopped her imitation of a popular comedian, and 
said, "Oh, she's all right; if they were all like her there'd be 
very little use our coming here." 

"Unfortunately that's just what they are," said another 
student, a stout little fellow with a pointed red beard, the ends 
of which caught the light. Esther's eyes often went to those 
stubble ends, and she hated him for his loud voice and 
jocularity. One of the midwives, a woman with a long nose 
and small grey eyes, seemed to mock her, and Esther hoped 
that this woman w r ould not come near her. She felt that she 
could not bear her touch. There was something sinister in 
her face, and Esther was glad when her favourite, a little blonde 
woman with wavy flaxen hair, came and asked her if she 
felt better. She looked a little like the young student who 
still sat by her bedside, and Esther wondered if they were 
brother and sister, and then she thought that they were 
sweethearts. 

Soon after a bell rang, and the students went down to supper, 
the nurse in charge promising to warn them if any change 
should take place. The last pains had so thoroughly exhausted 
Esther that she had fallen into a doze. But she could hear the 
chatter of the nurses so clearly that she did not believe herself 
asleep. And in this film of sleep reality was distorted, and 
the unsuccessful operation which the nurses were discussing, 



ESTHER WATERS. 117 

Esther understood to be a conspiracy against her life. She 
awoke, listened, and gradually sense of the truth returned to 
her. She was in the hospital. . , . The nurses were talk- 
ing of some one who had died last week. . . . That poor 
woman in the other bed seemed to suffer dreadful. 
Would she live through it? Would she herself live to see 
the morning? How long the time, how fearful the place! 
... If the nurses would only stop talking. . . . The pains 
would soon begin again. ... It was awful to lie listening, 
waiting. The windows were open. The mocking gaiety of 
the street was borne in on the night wind. Then there came 
a trampling of feet and sound of voices in the passage — the 
students and nurses were coming up from supper. At 
the same moment the pains began to creep up from her 
knees. One of the young men said that her time 
had not come. The woman with the sinister look 
that Esther dreaded, held a contrary opinion. The point 
was argued, and, interested in the question, the crowd 
came from the window and collected round the disputants. 
The young man expounded much medical and anatomical 
knowledge; the nurses listened with the usual deference of 
women. 

Suddenly the discussion was interrupted by a scream from 
Esther ; it seemed to her that she was being torn asunder, 
that life was going from her. The nurse ran to her side, a look 
of triumph came upon her face, and she said, " Now we 
shall see who's right," and forthwith ran for the doctor. 
He came running up the stairs ; immediately silence and 
scientific collectedness gathered round Esther. After a brief 
examination he said, in a low whisper — 

" I'm afraid this will not be as easy a case as one might have 
imagined. I shall administer chloroform." 

He placed a small wire case over her mouth and nose, and 
the sickly odour which she breathed from the cotton wool 
filled her brain with nausea; it seemed to choke her; life 
swung before her; at every inhalation she expected to lose 
sight of the circle of faces. 

When she opened her eyes the doctors and nurses were still 
standing round her, but there was no longer any expression of 
eager interest on their faces. She wondered at this change, and 
then out of the silence there came a tiny cry. 



Il8 ESTHER WATERS. 

" What's that ? " Esther asked. 

" That's your baby." 

" My baby ! Let me see it ; is it a boy or a girl ? " 

" It is a boy; it will be given to you when we get you out of 
the labour ward." 

" I knew it would be a boy." Then a scream of pain rent 
the stillness of the room. "Is that the same woman who 
was here when I first came in? Hasn't she been confined 
yet?" 

" No, and I don't think she will be till mid-day, she's very 
bad." 

The door was thrown open, and Esther was wheeled into the 
passage. She was like a convalescent plant trying to lift its 
leaves to the strengthening light, but within this twilight of 
nature the thought of another life, now in the world, grew 
momentarily more distinct. "Where is my boy?" she said; 
" give him to me." 

The nurse entered, and answered, "Here." A pulp of red 
flesh rolled up in flannel was laid alongside of her. Its 
eyes were open; it looked at her, and her flesh filled with 
a sense of happiness so deep and so intense that she was 
like one enchanted. When she took the child in her arms 
she thought she must die of happiness. She did not hear the 
nurse speak, nor did she understand her when she took the 
babe from her arms and laid it alongside on the pillow, 
saying, " You must let the little thing sleep, you must try to 
sleep yourself." 

Her personal self seemed entirely withdrawn; she existed 
like an atmosphere about the babe, an impersonal emanation 
of love. She lay absorbed in this life of her life, this flesh of 
her flesh, unconscious of herself as a sponge in warm sea-water. 
She touched this pulp of life, and was thrilled, and once more 
her senses swooned with love. She opened her eyes and 
looked again; it was still there. She remembered that the 
nurse had said it was a boy. She must see her boy, and her 
hands, working as in a dream, unwound him, and, delirious 
with love, she gazed until he awoke and cried. She tried to 
hush him and to enfold him, but her strength failed, she could 
not help him, and fear came lest he should die. She strove to 
reach her hands to him, but all strength had gone from her, 
and his cries sounded hollow in her weak brain. Then the 
nurse came and said — 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 19 

"See what you have done, the poor child is all uncovered; 
no wonder he is crying ; I will wrap him up, and you must not 
interfere with him again." But no sooner had the nurse turned 
her back than Esther had her child back in her arms. She 
did not sleep. She could not sleep for thinking of him, and 
the long night passed in adoration. 






ISO ESTHER WATERS. 



XVII. 

She was happy, her babe lay beside her. All her joints were 
loosened, and the long hospital days passed in gentle weariness. 
Lady visitors came and asked questions. Esther said that her 
father and mother lived in the Vauxhall Bridge Road, and she 
admitted that she had saved four pounds. There were two 
beds in this ward, and the woman who occupied the second 
bed declared herself to be destitute, without home, or money, 
or friends. She secured all sympathy and promises of help, 
and Esther was looked upon as a person who did not need 
assistance and ought to have known better. They received 
visits from a clergyman. He spoke to Esther of God's goodness 
and wisdom, but his exhortations seemed a little remote, and 
Esther was sad and ashamed that she was not more deeply 
stirred. Had it been her own people who came and knelt 
about her bed, lifting their voices in the plain prayers she was 
accustomed to, it might have been different, but this well-to-do 
clergyman with his sophisticated speech seemed foreign to her, 
and failed to draw her thoughts from the sleeping child. 

The ninth day passed, but Esther recovered slowly, and it 
was decided that she should not leave the hospital before the 
end of the third week. She knew that when she crossed the 
threshold of the hospital there would be no more peace for 
her ; and she was frightened as she listened to the never-ending 
rumble of the street. She spent whole hours thinking of her 
dear mother, and longing for some news from home. Her 
face brightened with anticipation when she was told that her 
sister had come to see her. 

" Jenny, what has happened ; is mother very bad ? " 

" Mother is dead, that's what I've come to tell you ; I'd 
have come before, but " 

" Mother dead ! Oh no, Jenny ! Oh, Jenny, not my poor 
mother 1 " 



ESTHER WATERS. 121 

" Yes, Esther, I knew it would cut you up dreadful ; we was 
all very sorry, but she's dead. She's dead a long time now, I 
was just a-going to tell you " 

" Jenny, what do you mean ? Dead a long time ? " 

" Well, she was buried more than a week ago. We was so 
sorry you couldn't be at the funeral. We was all there, and 
had crape on our dresses and father had crape on his 'at. We 
all cried, especially in church and about the grave, and when 
the sexton threw in the soil it sounded that hollow, it made 
me sob. Julia, she lost her 'ead and asked to be buried with 
mother, and I had to lead her away ; and then we went 'ome 
to dinner." 

" Oh, Jenny, our poor mother gone from us for ever ! How 
did she die? Tell me, was it a peaceful death? Did she 
suffer ?" 

" There ain't much to tell. Mother was taken bad almost 
immediately after you was with us the last time. Mother was 
that bad all the day long and all night too we could 'ardly 
stop in the 'ouse ; it gave one just the creeps to listen to her 
crying and moaning." 

"And then?" 

" Why, then the baby was born. It was dead, and mother 
died of weakness ; prostration the doctor called it." 

Esther hid her face in the pillow. Jenny waited, and an 
anxious look of self began to appear on the vulgar London 
street face. 

" Look 'ere, Esther, you can cry when I've gone ; I've a 
deal to say to yer and time is short." 

" Oh, Jenny, don't speak like that ! Father, was he kind to 
mother?" 

" I dunno that he thought much about it ; he spent 'alf 'is 
time in the public, 'e did. He said he couldn't abide the 
'ouse with a woman a-screaming like that. One of the neigh- 
bours came in to look after mother, and at the last she had the 
doctor." Esther looked at her sister through streaming tears, 
and the woman in the other bed alluded to the folly of poor 
women being confined " in their own 'omes ; in a 'ome where 
there is a drunken 'usband, and most 'omes is like that 
nowadays." 

At that moment Esther's baby awoke crying for the breast. 
The little lips caught at the nipple, the wee hand pressed the 
white curve, and in a moment Esther's face took that expres- 



122 ESTHER WATERS. 

sion of holy solicitude which Raphael sublimated in the 
Virgin's downward gazing eyes. Jenny watched the gluttonous 
lips, interested in the spectacle, and yet absorbed in what she 
had come to say to her sister. 

" Your baby do look 'ealthy." 

"Yes, and he is too, not an ache or a pain. He's as 
beautiful a boy as ever lived. But think of poor mother, 
Jenny, think of poor mother." 

" I do think of her, Esther. But I can't help seeing your 
baby. He's like you, Esther. I can see a look of you in 'is 
eyes. But I don't know that I should care to 'ave a baby 
meself, the expense comes very 'eavy on a poor girl." 

" Please God, my baby shall never want for anything as 
long as I can work for him. But, Jenny, my trouble will be a 
lesson to you. I hope you will always be a good girl, and 
never allow yourself to be led away, you promise me ? " 

" Yes, I promise." 

"A 'ome like ours, a drunken father, and now that poor 
mother is gone it will be worse than ever. Jenny, you are the 
eldest and must do your best to look after the younger ones 
and as much as possible to keep father from the public-house. 
I shall be away; the moment I'm well enough I must look out 
for a place." 

" That's just what I came to speak to you about Father is 
going to Australia. He is that tired of England, and as he 
lost his situation on the railway, he has made up his mind to 
emigrate. It is pretty well all arranged ; he has been to an 
agency and they says he'll 'ave to pay two pounds a 'ead, and 
that runs to a lot of money in a big family like ours. So I'm 
likely to get left, for father says that I'm old enough to look 
after myself. He's willing to take me if I gets the money, not 
without. That's what I came to tell yer about." 

Esther understood that Jenny had come to ask for money. 
She could not give it, and lapsed into thinking of this sudden 
loss of all her family. She did not know where Australia was ; 
she fancied that she had once heard that it took months to get 
there. But she knew that they were all going from her, they 
were going out on the great sea in a great ship that would 
sail and sail further and further away. She could see the 
ship from her bedside, at first strangely distinct, alive with 
hands and handkerchiefs, she could distinguish all the 
children. Jenny, Julia, and little Ethel. She lost sight of 



ESTHER WATERS. 12$ 

their faces as the ship cleared the harbour. Soon after the 
ship was far away on the great round of waters, again a little 
while and all the streaming canvas not larger than a gull's 
wing, again a little while and the last speck on the horizon 
hesitated and disappeared. 

"What are you crying about, Esther? I never saw yer cry 
before. It do seem that odd." 

" I'm so weak. Mother's death has broken my heart, and 
now to know that I shall never see any one of you again ! " 

"It do seem 'ard. We shall miss you sadly. But I was 
going to say that father can't take me unless I finds two pounds. 
You won't see me stranded, will you, Esther ? " 

" I cannot give you the money, Jenny. Father has had too 
much of my money already, there's 'ardly enough to see me 
through. I've only four pounds left. I cannot give you my 
child's money; God knows how we shall live until I can get to 
work again." 

"You're nearly well now. But if yer can't 'elp me, yer can't. 
I don't know what's to be done. Father can't take me if I 
don't find the money." 

" You say the agency wants two pounds for each person ? " 

"Yes, that's it." 

"And I've four. We might both go if it weren't for the 
baby, but I don't suppose they'd make any charge for a child 
on the breast." 

" I dunno. There's father, yer know what he is." 

"That's true, he don't want me, I'm not one of his. But, 
Jenny dear, it is terrible to be left all alone. Poor mother 
dead, and all of you going to Australia. I shall never see 
one of you again." 

The conversation paused, Esther changed the baby from 
the left to the right breast ; and Jenny tried to think what she 
had best say to induce her sister to give her the money she 
wanted. 

" If you don't give me the money I shall be left ; it is hard 
luck, that's all, for there's fine chances for a girl they says out 
in Australia. If I remain 'ere I dunno what will become of 
me." 

" You had better look out for a situation. W r e shall see each 
other from time to time. It's a pity you don't know a bit of 
cooking, enough to take the place of kitchen-maid." 

" I only know that dog-making, and I've 'ad enough of that." 



124 ESTHER WATERS. 

"You can always get a situation as general servant in a 
lodging-'ouse." 

" Service in a lodging-'ouse ! Not me. You know what that 
is, I'm surprised that you'd ask me." 

" Well, what are yer thinking of doing ? " 

" I was thinking of going on in the pantomime as one of the 
hextra ladies, if they'll 'ave me." 

_ "Oh Jenny, you won't do that, will you? A theatre is only 
sinfulness, as we 'ave always knowed." 

" Sinfulness be blowed ! I don't 'old with all them preachy 
preachy brethren says about the theatre." 

" I can't argue, I 'aven't the strength, and it interferes with the 
milk." And then as if prompted by some association of ideas 
Esther said, " I hope, Jenny, that you'll take example by me and 
will do nothing foolish ; you'll always be a good girl." 

" Yes, if I gets the chance." 

" I'm sorry to 'ear you speak like that, and poor mother only 
just dead." 

The words that rose to Jenny's lips were : " A nice one you 
are with a baby at your breast to come a-lecturing me," but fear- 
ing Esther's temper, she checked the dangerous words and said 
instead — 

" I didn't mean that I was a-going on the streets right away 
this very evening, only that a girl left alone in London without 
any one to look to may go wrong in spite of herself as it 
were." 

" A girl never need go wrong, if she does it is always 'er own 
fault." Esther spoke mechanically, but suddenly remembering 
her own circumstances she said : " I'd give you the money if I 
dared, but for the child's sake I mustn't." 

" You can afford it well enough, I wouldn't ask you if you 
couldn't ; you'll be earning a pound a week presently." 

" A pound a week ! what do you mean, Jenny ? " 

" Yer can get that as wet-nurse, and yer food too." 

" How do yer know that, Jenny ? " 

"A friend of mine who was 'ere last year told me she 
got it, and you can get it too if yer likes. Fancy a pound 
for the next six months and everything found. Yer might 
spare me the money and let me go to Australia with the 
others." 

" I'd give yer the money if what you said was true." 

" Yer can easily find out that what I say is the truth by 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 25 

sending for the matron : shall I go and fetch her ? I won't 
be a minute, you'll see what she says." 

A few moments after Jenny returned with a good-looking, 
middle-aged woman. On her face there was that testy and 
perplexed look that comes of numerous business and many 
interruptions. Before she had opened her lips her face had 
said : " Come, what is it ? be quick about it." 

"Father and the others is going to Australia, mother's 
dead and was buried last week, so father says there's nothing 
to keep 'im 'ere, for there is better prospects out there. But 
he says he can't take me, for the agency wants two pounds 
a 'ead, and it was all he could do to find the money for the 
others ; he is just short of two pounds, and as I'm the eldest 
barring Esther, who is 'is step-daughter, 'e says that I had 
better remain, that I'm old enough to get my own living, 
which is very 'ard on a girl, for I'm only just turned sixteen. 
So I thought that I would come up 'ere and tell my sister " 

" But, my good girl, what has all this got to do with me ? I 
can't give you two pounds to go to Australia. You are only 
wasting my time for nothing." 

" 'Ear me out, missis. I want you to explain to my sister 
that you can get her a situation as a wet-nurse at a pound 
a week, that's the usual money they gets, so I told her, but 
she won't believe me; but if you tells her, she'll give me 
two pounds and I shall be able to go with father to Australia, 
where they says there is fine chances for a girl." 

The matron examined in critical disdain the vague skirt, 
the broken boots, and the misshapen hat, coming all the 
while to rapid conclusions regarding the moral value of this 
unabashed child of the gutter. " I think your sister will be 
very foolish if she gives you her money." 

" Oh, don't say that missis, don't." 

" How does she know that your story is true ? Perhaps you 
are not going to Australia at all." 

" Perhaps I'm not, that's just what I'm afraid of; but father 
is, and I can prove it to you. I've brought a letter from 
father, 'ere it is ; now is that good enough for yer ? " 

"Come, no impertinence, or I'll order you out of the 
hospital in double quick time," said the matron. 

"I didn't intend no impertinence," said Jenny humbly, 
" only I didn't like to be told I was telling lies when I was 
speaking the truth." 



126 ESTHER WATERS. 

"Well, I see that your father is going to Australia," the 
matron replied, returning the letter to Jenny; "you want 
your sister to give you her money to take you there too." 

" What I wants is for you to tell my sister that you can 
get her a situation as wet-nurse ; then perhaps she'll give me 
the money." 

" If your sister wants to go out as wet-nurse, I daresay I 
could get her a pound a week." 

"But," said Esther, "I should have to put baby out at 
nurse." 

"You'll have to do that in any case," Jenny interposed; 
" you can't live for nine months on your savings and have all 
the nourishing food that you'll want to keep your milk going." 

"If I was yer sister I'd see yer further before I'd give yer my 
money. You must 'ave a cheek to come a-asking for it, to 
go off to Australia where a girl 'as chances, and yer sister with 
a child at the breast left behind. Well I never." 

Jenny and the matron turned suddenly and looked at the 
woman in the opposite bed who had so unexpectedly expressed 
her views. Jenny was furious. 

"What odds is it to you?" she screamed; "what business is 
it of yours, coming poking your nose into my affairs ?" 

"Come, now, I can't have any rowing," exclaimed the 
matron. 

" Rowing ! I should like to know what business it is of 
'ers." 

"Hush, hush, I can't have you interfering with my patients; 
another word and I'll order you out of the hospital." 

"Horder me out of the horspital ! and what for? Who 
began it ? No, missis, be fair ; wait until my sister gives her 
answer." 

" Well, then, she must be quick about it — I can't wait about 
here all day." 

" I'll give my sister the money to take her to Australia if 
you say you can get me a situation as wet-nurse." 

" Yes, I think I can do that. It was four pounds five that 
you gave me to keep. I remember the amount, for since I've 
been here no one has come with half that. If they have five 
shillings they think they can buy half London." 

" My sister is very careful," said Jenny sententiously. The 
matron looked sharply at her and said — 

" Now come along with me — I'm going to fetch your sister's 



ESTHER WATERS. \2J 

money. I can't leave you here — you'd get quarrelling with my 
patients." 

" No, missis, indeed I won't say nothing to her." 

" Do as I tell you. Come along with me." 

So with a passing scowl Jenny expressed her contempt for 
the woman who had come "a interfering in 'er business," 
and went after the matron, watching her every movement. 
When they came back Jenny's eyes were fixed on the matron's 
fat hand as if she could see the yellow metal through the 
fingers. 

" Here is your money," said the matron; "four pounds five. 
You can give your sister what you like." 

Esther held the four sovereigns and the two half-crowns in 
her hand for a moment, then she said — 

" Here, Jenny, are the two pounds you want to take you to 
Australia. I 'ope they'll bring you good luck, and that you'll 
think of me sometimes." 

"Indeed I will, Esther. You've been a good sister to me, 
indeed you 'ave; I shall never forget you, and will write to 
you. ... It is very 'ard parting." 

"Come, come, never mind those tears; you have got your 
money, say good-bye to your sister and run along." 

" Don't be so 'artless," cried Jenny, whose susceptibilities 
were now on the move. "'Ave yer no feeling; don't yer 
know what it is to bid good-bye to yer sister, and perhaps for 
ever ? " Jenny flung herself into Esther's arms crying bitterly. 
" Oh, Esther, I do love you ; yer 'ave been that kind to me 
I shall never forget it. I shall be very lonely without you. 
Write to me sometimes ; it will be a comfort to hear how you 
are getting on. If I marry I'll send for you, and you'll bring 
the baby." 

" Do you think I'd leave him behind ? Kiss 'im before you 

go-" 

"Good-bye, Esther; take care of yourself." 

Esther was now alone in the world, and she remembered the 
night she walked home from the hospital and how cruel the 
city had seemed. She was now alone in that great wilderness 
with her child, for whom she would have to work for many, 
many years. How would it all end ? Would she be able to 
live through it ? Had she done right in letting Jenny have the 
money — her boy's money ? She should not have given it ; but 
she hardly knew what she was doing, she was so weak, and the 



128 ESTHER WATERS. 

news of her mother's death had overcome her. She should 
not have given Jenny her boy's money. . . . But perhaps it 
might turn out all right after all. If the matron got her a 
situation as wet-nurse she'd be able to pull through. " So they 
would separate us," she whispered, bending over the sleeping 
child. " There is no help for it, my poor darling. There's no 
help for it, no help for it." 

Next day Esther was taken out of bed. She spent part of 
the afternoon sitting in an easy-chair. Mrs. Jones came to 
see her, and the little old woman seemed like one whom she 
had known always, and Esther told her about her mother's 
death and the departure of her family for Australia. Perhaps 
a week lay between her and the commencement of the struggle 
which she dreaded. She had been told that they did not 
usually keep any one in the hospital more than a fortnight. 
Three days after Mrs. Jones' visit the matron came into their 
room hurriedly. 

" I'm very sorry," she said, " but a number of new patients 
are expected ; there's nothing for it but to get rid of you. It 
is a pity, for I can see that you are both very weak." 

" What, me too ? " said the woman in the other bed. " I 
can hardly stand; I tried just now to get across the room." 

" I'm very sorry, but we've new patients coming, and there's 
all our spring cleaning. Have you any place to go to ? " 

"No place except a lodging," said Esther; "and I have 
only two pounds five now." 

" What's the use in taking us in at all if you fling us out on 
the street when we can hardly walk," said the other woman. 
" I wish I had gone and drowned myself. I was very nearly 
doing it. If I had it would be all over now for me and the 
poor baby." 

" I'm used to all this ingratitude," said the matron. " You 
have got through your confinement very comfortably, and your 
baby is quite healthy ; I hope you'll try and keep it so. Have 
you any money?" 

" Only four and sixpence." 

" Have you got any friends to whom you can go ? " 

"No." 

" Then you'll have to apply for admission to the workhouse." 

The woman made no answer, and at that moment two sisters 
came and forcibly began to dress her. She fell back from time 
to time in their arms, almost fainting. 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 29 

"Lord, what a job!" said one sister; "she's just like so 
much lead in one's arms. But if we listened to them we 
should have them loafing here over a month or more." Esther 
was stronger, and did not require much assistance. The sister 
said, "Oh, you are as strong as they make 'em; you might 
have gone two days ago." 

"You're no better than brutes," Esther muttered. Then 
turning to the matron, she said, " You promised to get me a 
situation as wet-nurse." 

" Yes, so I did, but the lady who I intended to recommend 
you to wrote this morning to say that she had suited her- 
self." 

"But do you think you could get me a situation as wet- 
nurse?" said the other woman ; "it would save me from going 
to the workhouse." 

" I really don't know what to do with you all ; you all want 
to stop in the hospital at least a month, eating and drinking 
the best of everything, and then you want situations as wet- 
nurses at a pound a week." 

" But," said Esther indignantly, " I never should have given 
my sister two pounds if you had not told me you could get me 
the situation." 

"I'm sorry," said the matron, "to have to send you away; I 
should like to have kept you, but really there is no help for it. 
As for the situation, I'll do the best I can. It is true that 
place I intended for you is filled up, but there will be another 
shortly, and you shall have the first. Give me your address. 
I shall not keep you long waiting, you can depend upon me. 
You are still very weak, I can see that. Would you like to 
have one of the nurses to walk round with you ? You had 
better, you might fall and hurt the baby. My word, he is a 
fine boy." 

" Yes, he is a beautiful boy ; it will break my heart to part 
with him." 

A sister gave Esther her arm, and they got down the steep 
stone staircase safely. Some eight or nine poor girls stood 
outside, their babies in their arms. They leaned against the 
pillars, or were clinging to the railings. A keen wind was 
blowing, and they found it difficult to hold on their hats. 
They were dressed alike in dingy garments, and seemed 
like half-dead flies trying to crawl through an October after- 
noon. 



130 ESTHER WATERS. 

" It do catch you a bit rough, coming out of them 'ot rooms," 
said a woman standing by her. " I'm that weak I can 'ardly 
carry my baby. I dunno 'ow I shall get as far as the Edgware 
Road. I take my 'bus there. Are you going that way?" 

" No, I'm going close by, round the corner." 



ESTHER WATERS. I31 



XVIII. 

Her hair hung about her, her hands and wrists were shrunken, 
her flesh was soft and flabby, and she had dark shadows in her 
face. Nursing her child seemed to draw all strength from her, 
and her nervous depression increased ; she was too weary and 
ill to think of the future, and for a whole week her physical 
condition held her, to the exclusion of every other thought. 
Mrs. Jones was very kind, and only charged her ten shillings a 
week for her board and lodging, but this was a great deal when 
only two pounds five shillings remained between her and the 
workhouse, and this fact was brought home to her when Mrs. 
Jones came to her for the first week's money Ten shillings 
gone ; only one pound fifteen shillings left, and still she was so 
weak that she could hardly get up and down stairs. But if 
she were twice as weak, if she had to crawl along the street on 
her hands and knees, she must go to the hospital and implore 
the matron to get her a situation as wet-nurse. It was raining 
heavily, and Mrs. Jones said it was madness for her to go out 
in such weather, but go she must, and though it was distant 
only a few hundred yards, she often thought she would like to 
lie down and die. And at the hospital only disappointment. 
Why hadn't she called yesterday? Yesterday, two ladies of 
title had come and had taken two girls away. Such a chance 
might not occur for some time. "For some time," thought 
Esther ; " very soon I shall have to apply for admission at the 
workhouse." She reminded the matron of her promise, and 
returned home more dead than alive. Mrs. Jones helped her 
to change her clothes, and bade her be of good heart. Esther 
looked at her hopelessly, and sitting down on the edge of her 
bed she put the baby to her breast. 

Another week passed. Esther had been to the hospital 
every day, but no one had been to inquire for a wet-nurse. 
Her money was reduced to a few shillings, and she tried 



132 ESTHER WATERS. 

to reconcile herself to the idea that she might do worse 
than to accept for a while the harsh shelter of the workhouse. 
But her nature revolted against it. Still she must do what was 
best for the child. She often asked herself, how would it all 
end? The more she thought, the more impossible did the 
future seem. One day her miserable meditations were inter- 
rupted by a footstep on the stairs ; it was Mrs. Jones, coming 
to tell her that a lady who wanted a wet-nurse had come from 
the hospital. The lady was dressed in a beautiful brown silk, 
and she looked round the humble room, horrified at the dirty 
window, the strip of drugget, and the wall-paper that the damp 
was pealing from the walls. Esther, who was sitting on the bed, 
rose, and wondered at the fine lady. She was about the medium 
height, a thin woman, with narrow temples, aquiline features, 
bright eyes, and a disagreeable voice. 

" You are the young person who wants a situation as wet- 
nurse ? " 

"Yes, ma'am." 

" Are you married?" 

" No, ma'am." 

" Is that your first child ? " 

"Yes, ma'am." 

" Ah ! that's a pity. But it doesn't matter much, so long as 
you and your baby are healthy. Will you show it to me ? " 

' ' He is asleep now, ma'am," Esther said, raising the bed- 
clothes ; " there never was a healthier child." 

"Yes, he seems healthy enough. You have a good supply 
of milk?" 

"Yes, ma'am." 

" Fifteen shillings, and all found. Does that suit you ? " 

" I had expected a pound a week." 

" It is only your first baby. Fifteen shillings is quite enough. 
Of course I only engage you subject to the doctor's approval. 
I'll ask him to call." 

" Very well, ma'am ; I shall be glad of the place." 

"Then it is settled. You can come at once?" 

" I must arrange to put my baby out to nurse, ma'am." 

"Yes, but my child is waiting." 

"I'm very sorry, ma'am, but I can't leave mine in the 
street." 

The lady's face clouded. But following up another train 
of thought, she said — 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 33 

" Of course you must arrange about your baby, and I hope 
you'll make proper arrangements. Tell the woman in whose 
charge you leave it, that I shall want to see it every three 
weeks. It will be better so," she added under her breath, 
"for two have died already." 

Esther was overjoyed that her incautious answer had not 
lost her the coveted situation, and her thoughts ran on ahead and 
she was already deep in consideration regarding the most suit- 
able person to whom she might confide her child. 

"This is my card," said the lady, "Mrs. Rivers, Curzon 
Street, Mayfair, and I shall expect you to-morrow afternoon 
— that is to say, if the doctor approves of you. Here is one 
and sixpence for your cab fare." 

" Thank you, ma'am." 

" I shall expect you not later than four o'clock. I hope you 
won't disappoint me; remember my child is waiting." 

When Mrs. Rivers left, Esther consulted with Mrs. Jones. 
The difficulty was now where she should put the child out at 
nurse. It was now just after two o'clock. The baby was fast 
asleep and would want nothing for three or four hours. It 
would be well for Esther to put on her hat and jacket and go off 
at once. Mrs. Jones gave her the address of a respectable 
woman who used to take charge of children. But this woman 
was nursing twins and could not possibly undertake the charge 
of another baby. And Esther visited many streets, always failing 
for one reason or another. At last she found herself in Wands- 
worth, in a battered tumble-down little street, no thoroughfare, 
only four houses and a coal-shed. Broken wooden palings stood 
in front of the small area whence descent was made by means 
of a few wooden steps. The wall opposite seemed to be the 
back of some stables. A high wind was blowing, the shutters 
of the hay-lofts creaked on their hinges. Three little mites 
played about the steps of number three, the smallest was tied 
in a chair. A short fat woman came out of the kitchen at 
Esther's call. A dirty apron sloped over her stomach, and her 
pale brown hair was twisted into a knot at the top of her head. 

"Well, what is it?" 

" I came about putting a child out to nurse. You are Mrs. 
Spires, ain't yer ? " 

" Yes, that's my name. May I ask who sent you ? " 

Esther told her, and then Mrs. Spires asked her to step down 
into the kitchen. 



134 ESTHER WATERS. 

" Them 'ere children you saw in the area, I looks after while 
their mothers are out washing or charing. They takes them 
'ome in the evening. I only charges them fourpence a-day, 
and it is a loss at that, for they does take a lot of minding. 
What age is yours?" 

11 Mine is only a month old. I've a chance to go out as wet- 
nurse if I can find a place to put him out at nurse. Will you 
look after my baby ? " 

" How much do yer think of paying for him ? " 

" Five shillings a week." 

" And you a-going out as wet-nurse at a pound a week ; you 
can afford more than that." 

" I'm only getting fifteen shillings a week." 

11 Well, you can afford to pay six. I tell you the responsi- 
bility of looking after a hinfant is that awful nowadays that I 
don't care to undertake it for less." 

Esther hesitated, she did not like this woman. 

" I suppose," said the woman, altering her tone to one of 
mild interrogation, " you would like your baby to have the 
best of everything, and not the drainings of any bottle that's 
handy?" 

" I should like my child to be well looked after, and I must 
see the child every three weeks." 

" Do you expect me to bring up the child to wherever 
the lady lives, and pay my 'bus fare, all out of five shillings 
a week ? It can't be done ! " Esther did not answer. " You 
ain't married, of course ? " Mrs. Spires said suddenly. 

" No, I ain't ; what about that ? " 

u Oh, nothing ; there is so many of you, that's all. You 
can't lay yer 'and on the father and get a bit out of 'im?" 

The conversation paused. Esther felt strangely undecided. 
She looked round suspiciously, and noticing the look the 
woman said — ■ 

"Your baby will be well looked after 'ere; a nice warm 
kitchen, and I've no other babies for the moment; them 
children don't give no trouble, they plays in the area. You 
had better let me have the child, you won't do better than 'ere." 

Esther promised to think it over and to let her know 
to-morrow. It took her many omnibusses to get home, and it 
was quite dark when she pushed the door to. The first thing 
that caught her car was her child crying. "What is the 
matter ? " she cried, hurrying down the passage. 



ESTHER WATERS. I 35 

" Oh, is that you? You have been away a time. The poor 
child is that hungry he has been crying this hour or more. 
If I'd 'ad a bottle I'd 'ave given him a little milk." 

" Hungry, is he ? Then he shall have plenty soon. It is 
nearly the last time I shall nurse the poor darling. " Then she 
told Mrs. Jones about Mrs. Spires, and both women tried to 
arrive at a decision. 

" Since you have to put the child out to nurse, you might as 
well put him there as elsewhere; the woman will look after 
him as well as she can — she'll do that, if it is for the sake of 
the six shillings a week." 

" Yes, yes, I know ; but I've always heard that children that 
are put out to nurse often die. If mine died I never should 
forgive myself." 

Esther went to bed soon after. But she could not sleep ; 
she lay with her arms about her baby, distracted at the thought 
of parting from him. What had she done that her baby should 
be separated from her? What had the poor little darling 
done ? He at least was innocent ; why should he be deprived 
of his mother? At midnight she got up and lighted a candle, 
looked at him, took him in her arms, squeezed him to her 
bosom till he cried, and the thought came that it would be 
sweeter to kill him with her own hands than to be parted from 
him. If he were neglected and allowed to pine away ! The 
thought was madness, and happily she fell asleep. 

When she awoke the sun was shining ; the thought of 
murder had gone with the night, and she even enjoyed the 
journey to Wandsworth. Her baby laughed and cooed and was 
much admired in the omnibus, and the little street where Mrs. 
Spires lived seemed different. A cart of hay was being unloaded, 
and this gave the place a pleasant rural air. Mrs. Spires, too, was 
cleaner, tidier ; Esther no longer disliked her j she had a nice 
little cot ready for the baby, and he seemed so comfortable in 
it that Esther did not feel the pangs at parting which she 
had expected to feel. She would see him in a few weeks, and 
in those weeks she would be richer. She had to begin the 
calculation many times before she succeeded in working out 
the sum. It seemed quite wonderful to earn so much money 
in so short a time. She had had a great deal of bad luck, but 
her luck seemed to have turned at last. So engrossed was she 
in the consideration of her good fortune that she nearly forgot 
to get out of her 'bus at Charing Cross, and had it not been 



136 ESTHER WATERS. 

for the attention of the conductor might have gone on, she did 
not know where, perhaps Clerkenwell, or may be Islington. 
When the second 'bus turned into Oxford Street she got out, 
thinking she would walk the rest of the way. She did not 
want to spend more money than was necessary. Mrs. Jones 
approved of all she had done, helped her to pack up her box, 
and sent her away with many kind wishes to Curzon Street in 
a cab. 

Esther was full of the adventure and the golden prospect 
before her. She wondered if the house she was going to was 
as grand as Woodview. A maidservant in a neat black, dress, 
with white cap and cuffs, opened the door to her. She saw 
stained glass, and white painted walls hung with engravings in 
white frames. A door on the right opened, and Mrs. Rivers 
came out of her yellow drawing-room. 

"Oh, here you are," she said. 'I have been anxiously 
expecting you ; my baby is not at all well. Come up to the 
nursery at once. I don't know your name," she said, turning 
to Esther. 

"Waters, ma'am." 

" Emily, you'll see that Waters' box is taken to her room." 

" I'll see to it, ma'am." 

"Then come up at once, Waters. I hope you'll succeed 
better than the others." 

A tall, handsome gentleman stood at the door of a room full 
of beautiful things, and as they went past him Mrs. Rivers 
said, "This is the new nurse, dear." Higher up Esther saw 
a bedroom of soft hangings and a delicate bright porcelain. 
Then another staircase, and the little wail of a child caught on 
the ear, and Mrs. Rivers said, " The poor little thing ; it never 
ceases crying. Take it, Waters, take it." 

Esther sat down, and soon the little thing ceased crying. 

" It seems to take to you," said the anxious mother. 

" So it seems," said Esther ; " it is a wee thing, not half the 
size of my boy/' 

" I hope the milk will suit it, and that it won't bring up 
what it takes. This is our last chance." 

" I daresay it will come round, ma'am. I suppose you 
weren't strong enough to nurse it yourself, and yet you looks 
healthy." 

"I? No, I could not undertake to nurse it." Then 
glancing suspiciously at Esther, whose breast was like a little 



ESTHER WATERS. 137 

cup, Mrs. Rivers said, " I hope you have plenty of 
milk?" 

" Oh yes, ma'am ; they said at the hospital I could bring up 
twins." 

" Your supper will be ready at nine. But that will be a 
long time for you to wait. I told them to cut you some 
sandwiches, and you'll have a glass of porter. Or perhaps 
you'd prefer to wait till supper ? You can have your 
supper you know at eight, if you like?" Esther took a 
sandwich and Mrs. Rivers poured out a glass of porter. 
And later in the evening Mrs. Rivers came down from her 
drawing-room to see that Esther's supper was all right, and 
not satisfied with the handsome fare that had been laid before 
her child's nurse, she went into the kitchen and gave strict 
orders that the meat for the future was not to be quite so 
much cooked. 

Henceforth it seemed to Esther that she was eating all day. 
The food was doubtless necessary after the great trial of the 
flesh she had been through, likewise pleasant after her long 
abstinences. She grew happy in the tide of new blood flowing 
in her veins, and might easily have abandoned herself in the 
seduction of these carnal influences. But her moral nature was 
of tough fibre and made mute revolt. Such constant mealing 
did not seem natural, and the obtuse brain of this lowly servant- 
girl was perplexed. Her self-respect was wounded ; she hated 
her position in this house, and sought consolation in the 
thought that she was earning good money for her baby. She 
noticed, too, that she never was allowed out alone, and that 
her walks were limited to just sufficient exercise to keep her in 
health. 

A fortnight passed, and one afternoon after having put baby 
to sleep, she said to Mrs. Rivers, " I hope, ma'am, you'll be 
able to spare me for a couple of hours ; baby won't want me 
before then. I'm very anxious about my little one." 

11 Oh, nurse, I couldn't possibly hear of it ; such a thing is 
never allowed. You can write to the woman, if you like." 

" I do not know how to write, ma'am." 

" Then you can get some one to write for you. But your 
baby is no doubt all right." 

" But, ma'am, you are uneasy about your baby ; you are 
up in the nursery twenty times a day; it is only natural I 
should be uneasy about mine." 



138 ESTHER WATERS. 

■' But, nurse, I've no one to send with you." 

" There is no reason why any one should go with me, ma'am ; 
I can take care of myself." 

" What ! let you go off all the way to — where did you say 
you had left it, Wandsworth — by yourself! I really couldn't 
think of it. I don't want to be unnecessarily hard, but I really 
couldn't, no mother could. I must consider the interests of 
my child. . . . But I don't want you to agitate yourself, and 
if you like I'll write myself to the woman who has charge 
of your baby? I cannot do more, and I hope you'll be 
satisfied." 

Esther sat down before the fire. By what right, by what 
law was she separated from her child? She was tired of 
hearing Mrs. Rivers speak of my child, my child, my 
child, and of seeing this fine lady turn up her nose 
when she spoke of her own beautiful boy. When Mrs. 
Rivers came to engage her she had said that it would be 
better for the baby to be brought to see her every three or four 
weeks, that two had died already. At the time Esther had 
not understood. She had supposed vaguely, in a passing way, 
that Mrs. Rivers had already lost two children. But yesterday 
the housemaid had told her that that little thing in the cradle 
had had two wet-nurses before Esther, and that both babies 
had died. It was then life for a life. It was more. The 
children of two poor girls had been sacrificed so that this rich 
woman's child might be saved. Even that was not enough, 
the life of her beautiful boy was called for. Then other 
memories swept into Esther's frenzied brain. She remembered 
vague hints, allusions that Mrs. Spires had thrown out ; and 
as if in the obtuseness of a nightmare, it seemed to this 
ignorant girl that she was the victim of a dark and far-reaching 
conspiracy; she experienced the sensation of the captured 
animal, and she scanned the doors and windows, thinking of 
some means of escape. 

At that moment a knock was heard and the housemaid 
came in. 

" The woman who has charge of your baby has come to see 
you." 

Esther started up from her chair, and fat little Mrs. Spires 
waddled into the room. The ends of her shawl touched the 
ground. Her dress was too short in front and a pair of new 
elastic-side boots came forward. 



ESTHER WATERS. 139 

" Where is my baby ? " said Esther. u Why haven't you 
brought him ? " 

" Why, you see, my dear, the sweet little thing didn't seem 
as well as usual this afternoon, and I did not care to bring 
him out, it being a long way and a trifle cold. ... It is nice 
and warm in here. May I sit down ? " 

" Yes, there's a chair \ but tell me what is the matter with 
him?" 

"A little cold, dear, nothing to speak of. You must not 
excite yourself, it isn't worth while ; besides it's bad for you and 
the little darling in the cradle. May I have a look ? . . . a 
little girl, isn't it ? " 

" Yes, it is a girl." 

" And a beautiful little girl too. 'Ow 'ealthy she do look ! 
I'll be bound you have made a difference in her. I suppose 
you are beginning to like her just as if she was your own ?" 

Esther did not answer. 

" Yer know, all you girls are dreadful taken with their 
babies at first. But they is a awful drag on a girl who 
gets her living in service. For my part, I do think it 
providential -like that rich folk don't nurse their own. 
If they did, I dunno what would become of all you 
poor , girls. The situation of wet-nurse is just what you 
wants at the time, and it is good money. I 'ope yer did 
what I told you and stuck out for a pound a week. Rich folk 
like these here would think nothing of a pound a week nor yet 
two when they sees their child is suited." 

" Never mind about my money, that's my affair. Tell me 
what's the matter with my baby ? " 

" 'Ow yer do 'arp on it ! I've told yer that 'e's all right ; 
nothing to signify, only a little poorly, but knowing you was 
that anxious I thought it better to come up. I didn't know 
but what you might like to 'ave in the doctor." 

" Does he require the doctor ? I thought you said it was 
nothing to signify." 

" That depends 'ow yer looks at it. Some likes to 'ave in 
the doctor, however little the ailing ; then others won't 'ave 
anything to do with doctors, don't believe in them. So I 
thought I'd come up and see what you thought about it. I 
would 'ave sent for the doctor this morning — I'm one of those 
who 'as faith in doctors — but being a bit short of money I 
thought I'd come up and ask you for a trifle." 



140 ESTHER WATERS. 

At that moment Mrs. Rivers came into the nursery and her 
first look went in the direction of the cradle, then she turned 
to consider curtseying Mrs. Spires. 

" This is Mrs. Spires, the lady who is looking after my baby, 
ma'am," said Esther; "she has come with bad news, my baby 
is ill." 

"All babies are ill sometimes. These women make the 
most of every trifle." 

" Mrs. Spires tells me my baby is ill. She wouldn't say so 
if it wasn't." 

" Yes, ma'am, the little thing seemed a bit poorly, and I " 

11 Well, let her send for the doctor. You have placed your 
baby in her charge and you must leave the management of it 
to her. I cannot have her coming here upsetting you." 

"Being short of money, ma'am, I had to come and see 
nurse. I knows right well that they must not be disturbed, 
and of course your child's 'ealth is everything ; but if I may 
make so bold I'd like to say that the little dear do look 
beautiful. Nurse is bringing 'er up that well that yer must 
have every satisfaction in 'er." 

"Yes, she seems to suit the child, that's the reason I don't 
want her upset." 

" It won't occur again, ma'am, I promise you." 

Esther did not answer, and her white sullen face remained 
unchanged. She had a great deal on her mind, and would 
have spoken if the words did not seem to betray her when she 
attempted to speak. 

" When the baby is well, and the doctor is satisfied there is 
no danger of infection, you can bring it here — once a month 
will be sufficient. Is there anything more ? " 

" Mrs. Spires thinks my baby ought to see the doctor." 

"Well, let her send for the doctor, I don't mind." 

" Being a bit short of money " 

" How much is it ? " said Esther. 

"Well, what we pays is five shillings to the doctor, but then 
there's the medicine he will order, and I was going to speak to 
you about a piece of flannel; if yer could let me have ten 
shillings to go on with." 

"But I haven't so much left. I must see my baby," and 
Esther moved towards the door. 

" No, no, nurse, I cannot hear of it ; I'd sooner pay the 
money myself. Now, how much do you want, Mrs. Spires ? " 



ESTHER WATERS. 141 

"Ten shillings will do for the present, ma'am." 

" Here they are ; let the child have every attendance, and 
remember you are not to come troubling my nurse. Above 
all, you are not to come up to the nursery. I don't know how 
it happened, it was a mistake on the part of the new house- 
maid. You must have my permission before you see my 
nurse." And while talking rapidly and imperatively Mrs. 
Rivers, as it were, drove Mrs. Spires out of the nursery. Esther 
could hear them talking on the staircase and she listened, all 
the while striving to collect her thoughts. She must see her 
baby, of that she was quite sure, and hurriedly she asked her- 
self if they would try to detain her ? As she debated this 
possibility Mrs. Rivers returned. " I really cannot allow her 
to come here upsetting you," she said. Then, as if impressed 
by the sombre look on Esther's face, she added : "Upsetting 
you about nothing. I assure you it will be all right; only a 
little indisposition." 

" I must see my baby," Esther replied. 

"So you will, when the doctor says it is quite well." 

" I must see my baby to-night, ma'am." 

" To-night ! Nurse, I could not hear of it. You might 
bring back some infection and give it to my baby." 

" Your baby is not more to you than mine is to me." 

"You forget that I'm paying you fifteen shillings a week 
and everything found." 

" I took the money for my child's sake, not for yours." 

" Come, nurse, don't lose your temper. You shall see your 
baby the moment the doctor says it is fit to come here. You 
can't expect me to do more than that." Esther did not move, 
and thinking that it would not be well to argue with her, Mrs. 
Rivers went over to the cradle. " See, nurse, the little darling 
has just awoke up ; come and take her, I'm sure she wants you." 

Esther paid no attention. She stood looking into space, and 
it seemed to Mrs. Rivers that it would be better not to provoke 
a scene. She went towards the door slowly. A little cry from 
the cradle stopped her, and she said — 

' ' Come, nurse, what is it ? Come, the baby is waiting for you. " 

Then, like one waking from a dream, Esther said : " If you 
are so fond of yours, why don't you nurse it yourself, I'd like 
to know. You're as strong and as healthy as I am, there don't 
seem much the matter with you." 

" You forget who you are speaking to, nurse." 



142 ESTHER WATERS. 

" No, I don't ; I'm speaking to the mother of that baby, am 
I not? Why don't you nurse it yourself?" 

" Nurse," said Mrs. Rivers, who was trying hard to keep her 
temper, " I pay you for nursing my baby ; you take my money, 
that's sufficient." 

"Yes, I do take your money, but that's no reason. . . . 
What about them two that died? When you spoke first, I 
thought you meant two of your own children, but the house- 
maid told me that they was the children of the two wet-nurses 
you had before me, them whose milk didn't suit your baby. It 
is our babies that die, it is life for a life; more than that, two 
lives for a life, and now the life of my boy is asked for." 

Esther stopped talking, and the two women stood and looked 
at each other. 

" I will not be spoken to in this way; you are forgetting 
yourself ? " 

" No, I'm not, ma'am, and you know very well that I'm saying 
no more than the simple truth. I've been a-thinking of it over 
and I understands it all well enough now. How many times 
have you not hinted that I should never be able to bring up 
my child, that he'd only be a drag on me all my life ! I dare- 
say you meant no particular harm, but the thought was there 
all the same, that if my baby did die I would belong all the 
more to yours." 

Esther spoke in her quiet stolid way, finding her words 
unconsciously. 

"You don't know what you're saying . . . you can't. . . . 
You've forgotten yourself. Next time I engage a nurse, I'll 
try to get one who has lost her baby, and then there will be 
no bother." 

" No bother," Esther answered ; " two innocent children 
murdered so that a rich woman's child may be brought up. 
I'm not afraid of saying it, it's the truth ; I'd like every one to 
know it." 

At the word " murdered " a strange look passed over Mrs. 
Rivers' face. She knew, of course, that she stood well within the 
law, that she was doing no more than a hundred other fashionable 
women were doing at the same moment; but this plain girl had 
a plain way of putting things, and she did not care for it to be 
publicly known that the life of her child had been Sought with 
the lives of two poor children. She was inclined to temporise. 
The difficulty was how to control her temper, and when Esther 



ESTHER WATERS. I43 

said that she would like the whole world to know what she 
thought of this murdering of innocent babies, Mrs. Rivers 
incautiously let drop the word " Bastards." 

" Say nothing against my child, he's human flesh and blood, 
and a good deal wholesomer flesh and blood than your little 
mite — he shall not be killed like the others. Mrs. Spires 
shan't have him, no, she shan't. I understand it all now. 
Fine folk like you pays the money, and Mrs. Spires and 
her like gets rid of the poor little things. Change the milk a 
few times, a little neglect, and the poor servant-girl is spared 
the trouble of bringing up her baby and can make a hand- 
some child of the rich woman's little starveling. " 

At that moment the baby began to cry; both women looked 
in the direction of the cradle. 

" Nurse, you have utterly forgotten yourself, you have talked 
a great deal of nonsense, you have said a great deal that is 
untrue. You accused me of wishing your baby were dead, 
indeed I hardly know what wild remarks you did not indulge 
in. Of course I cannot put up with such conduct — to- 
morrow you will come to me and apologise. In the mean- 
time the baby wants you, are you not going to her?" 

" I'm going to my own child." 

"That means that you refuse to nurse my baby ?'* 

" Yes, I'm going straight to look after my own." 

" If you leave my house you shall never enter it again." 

" I don't want to enter it again." 

" I shall not pay you one shilling if you leave my baby. You 
have no money." 

" I shall try to manage without. I shall go with my baby 
to the workhouse. However bad the living may be there, he'll 
be with his mother." 

" If you go to-night, my baby will die; she cannot be brought 
up on the bottle." 

"Do you think mine is any different? I'm sorry for you, 
but I must go." 

"Then you shall go at once, this very instant" 

" I'm going this very instant, as soon as I've put on my hat 
and jacket." 

" You had better take your box with you. ... If you don't, 
I shall have it thrown into the street." 

" I daresay you're cruel enough to do that if the law allows 
you, only be careful that it do." 



144 ESTHER WATERS. 



XIX. 

The moment Esther got out of the house in Curzon Street, 
she felt in her pocket for her money. She had only a few 
pence, enough for her 'bus fare, however. Her thoughts did 
not go further. Her entire being was absorbed by a unique 
desire to see her child and rescue him from the power of 
Mrs. Spires; and she sat as if petrified in the corner of the 'bus, 
seeing nothing but a little street of four houses, facing some 
hay-lofts. The street itself was hardly more than a shadow, 
but the area railings, the low pitched kitchen, the fat woman, 
the cradle in the corner, was a picture whence her thoughts 
did not stray. Nor did time appear long in the omnibus, the 
intensity and the oneness of her desire seemed to annihilate 
time, and when she got out of the omnibus she walked with a 
sort of animal-like instinct straight for the house. There was a 
light in the kitchen just as she expected, and as she descended 
the four wooden steps into the area she looked to see if Mrs. 
Spires was there. She was there. Esther pushed open the 
door. 

"Where's my baby?" 

"Lord, 'ow yer did frighten me," said Mrs. Spires, turning 
from the range and leaning against the table. The table was 
laid for supper. " Coming like that into other folk's places 
without a word of warning, without as much as knocking at 
the door." 

"I beg your pardon, but I was that anxious about my 
baby." 

"Was you indeed? it is easy to see it is the first one. 
There it is in the cradle there ? " 

" Have you sent for the doctor ? " 

" Sent for the doctor ! I've to get my husband's supper." 
Esther took her baby out of the cradle. It woke up crying. 



ESTHER WATERS. 145 

Esther said, "You don't mind my sitting down a moment 
The poor little thing wants its mother." 

"If Mrs. Rivers saw you now a-nursing of yer baby ? " 

" I shouldn't care if she did. He's thinner than when I 
left him; ten days 'ave made a difference in him." 

"Well, yer don't expect a child to do as well without its 
mother as with her. But tell me, how did yer get out ? You 
must have come away shortly after me." 

" I wasn't going to stop there and my child ill." 

"Yer don't mean to tell me that yer 'ave gone and thrown 
hup the situation ? " 

" She told me if I went out, I should never enter her door 
again." 

" And what did you say ? " 

"Told her I didn't want to." 

"And what, may I ask, are yer thinking of doing ? I 'eard 
yer say yer 'ad no money." 

" I don't know." 

" Take my advice, and go straight back and ask 'er to 
overlook it, this once." 

" Oh no, she'd never take me back." 

" Yes she would ; you suits the child, and that's all they 
think of." 

" I don't know what will become of me and my baby." 

" No more don't I. Yer can't stop always in the work'us, 
and a baby '11 be a 'eavy drag on you. Can't you lay 'ands 
on 'is father, some'ow ? " 

Esther shook her head, and Mrs. Spires noticed that she 
was crying. 

"I'm all alone," she said; "I don't know 'ow I'm ever to 
pull through." 

" Not with that child yer won't, it ain't possible. . . . You 
gals is all alike, yer thinks of nothing but yer babies for 
the first few weeks, then yer tires of them, the drag on yer 
is that 'eavy, — I knows yer, — and then yer begins to wish they 
'ad never been born, or yer wishes they had died afore they 
knew they was alive. I don't say I'm not often sorry for them 
poor little dears, but they takes less notice than you'd think 
for, and they is better out of the way; they really is, it saves 
a lot of trouble hereafter. I often do think that to neglect 
them, to let them go off quiet, that I be their best friend; not 
wilfully neglect, yer know, but what is a woman to do with ten 



146 ESTHER WATERS. 

or a dozen, and I often 'as as many? I'm sure they'd thank 
me for it." 

Esther did not answer, but judging by her face that she had 
lost all hope, Mrs. Spires was tempted to continue. 

"There's that other baby in the far corner, that was 
brought 'ere since you was 'ere by a servant-girl like yerself. 
She's out a-nursing of a lady's child, getting a pound a week, 
just as you was ; well now, I asks 'ow she can 'ope to bring up 
that 'ere child— a weakly little thing that wants the doctor and 
all sort of looking after. If that child was to live it would be 
the ruin of that girl's life. Don't yer hear what I'm saying ? " 

"Yes, I hear/' said Esther, speaking like one in a dream; 
" don't she care for her baby, then ? " 

" She used to care for them, but if they had all lived, I 
should like to know where she'd be. There 'as been five 
of them, that's the fifth, so instead of them a-costing 'er 
money, they brings 'er money. She 'as never failed yet to 
suit 'erself in a situation as wet-nurse." 

"And they all died?" 

"Yes, they all died; and this little one don't look as if 
it was long for the world, do it?" said Mrs. Spires, who 
had taken the infant from the cradle to show Esther. Esther 
looked at the poor wizen features, twitched with pain, and the 
far-off cry, a tiny tinkle of tiny doom, shivered in the ear with 
a strange pathos. 

" It goes to my 'eart," said Mrs. Spires, " it do indeed, but 
Lord it is the best that could 'appen to 'em ; who's to care 
for 'em, and there is 'undreds and 'undreds of them, ay, and 
thousands and thousands every year, and they all dies like the 
early shoots. It is 'ard, very 'ard, poor little dears, but they 
is best out of the way, they is only an expense and a disgrace." 
Mrs. Spires talked on in a rapid soothing soporific voice. 
She had just finished pouring some milk in the baby's bottle 
and had taken down a jug of water from the dresser. 

"But that's cold water," said Esther, waking from the 
stupor of her despair; "it will give the baby the gripes for 
certain." 

" I've no 'ot water ready ; I'll let the bottle stand afore the 
fire, that'll do as well." Watching Esther all the while, Mrs. 
Spires held the bottle a few moments before the fire and then 
gave it to the child to suck. Very soon after a cry of pain 
came from the cradle. 



ESTHER WATERS. 147 

"The little dear never was well; it wouldn't surprise me 
a bit if it died— went off before morning. It do look that 
poorly. One can't 'elp being sorry for them, though one 
knows there is no 'ouse for them 'ere. Poor little hangels, and 
not even baptised." 

"Ain't the child baptised? " 

" Who is there to baptise them ? " 

"Any one can baptise. I'll baptise it. Have you got some 
water ? " 

Mrs. Spires filled a basin with water. 

" But," said Esther, "that's cold water, it will kill the child." 

" Then it must do without baptising. I've no 'ot water 
ready," Mrs. Spires answered angrily. 

Esther took the basin, and dipping in her hand she sprinkled 
the child, saying : " I baptise thee, Esther, in the name of the 
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." 

" I wouldn't give much for such baptism as that." 

" You believe only in baptism by immersion ?" 

Mrs. Spires shrugged her shoulders and continued to 
prepare her husband's supper. Several times she looked 
as if she were going to speak, and several times she checked 
herself. In truth, she didn't know what to make of Esther. 
Was her love of her child such love as would enable her 
to put up with all hardships for its sake, or was it the 
fleeting affection of the ordinary young mother, which though 
ardent at first gives way under difficulties? Mrs. Spires had 
heard many mothers talk as Esther talked, but when the real 
strain of life was put upon them they had yielded to the 
temptation of ridding themselves of their burdens. So Mrs. 
Spires could not believe that Esther was really different from 
the others, and if carefully handled she would do what the others 
had done. Still there was something in Esther which kept 
Mrs. Spires from making any distinct proposal. But it were 
a pity to let the girl slip through her fingers — five pounds 
were not picked up every day. There were three five-pound 
notes in the cradles. If Esther would listen to reason there 
would be twenty pounds, and the money was wanted badly. 
Once more greed set Mrs. Spires' tongue flowing. She spoke 
about the mother of the dying child, representing herself as 
a sort of guardian angel ; what would that poor girl have done 
without her, she had confided all her children to her care. 

" And they all died," said Esther. 



148 ESTHER WATERS. 

"Yes, and a good job too," said Mrs. Spires, whose temper 
for the moment outsped her discretion. Was this penniless 
drab doing it on purpose to annoy her? a nice one indeed 
to high and mighty it over her. She would show her in 
mighty quick time she had come to the wrong shop. Just 
as Mrs. Spires was about to speak out she noticed that Esther 
was in tears. Mrs. Spires always looked upon tears as a good 
sign, so she resolved to give her one more chance. "What 
are you crying about ? " she said. 

" Oh," said Esther, M I don't even know where I shall sleep 
to-night. I have only threepence, and not a friend in the 
world." 

" Now look 'ere, if you'll listen to reason I'll talk to you. 
Yer mustn't look upon me as a henemy, I've been a good 
friend to many a poor girl like you afore now, and I'll be 
one to you if you're sensible like. I'll do for you what I'm 
doing for the other girl. Give me five pounds " 

" Five pounds ! I've only a few pence." 

M 'Ear me out : go back to yer situation — she'll take you 
back, yer suits the child, that's all she cares about; ask 'er 
for an advance of five pounds, she'll give it when she 'ears 
it is to get rid of yer child — they 'ates their nurses to be 
a-ankering after their own, they likes them to be forgotten 
like; they asks if the child is dead very often and won't 
engage them if it isn't, so believe me she'll give yer the 
money when yer tells 'er that it is to give the child to some 
one who wants to adopt it. That's what you 'as to say." 

" And you'll take the child off my hands for ever for five 
pounds ? " 

" Yes; and if you likes to go out again as wet-nurse, I'll 
take the second off yer hands too, and at the same price." 

11 You wicked woman, oh, this is awful ! " 

"Come, come . . . What do you mean by talking to 
me like that ? And because I offered to find some one who 
would adopt your child." 

" You did nothing of the kind ; ever since I've been in 
your house you have been trying to get me to give you up 
my child to murder as you are murdering those poor innocents 
in the cradles." 

"It is a lie, but I don't want no hargument with yer; pay 
me what you owe me and take yerself hoff, I want no more 
of yer, do you 'ear ? " 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 49 

Esther did not shrink before her as Mrs. Spires expected. 
Clasping her baby more tightly she said : " I've paid you what 
I owe you, you've had more than your due. Mrs. Rivers gave 
you ten shillings for a doctor which you didn't send for. Let 
me go." 

"Yes, when yer pays me." 

" What's all this row about ? " said a tall, red-bearded man 
who had just come in ; " no one takes their babies out of this 
'ere 'ouse before they pays. Come now, come now, who are 
yer getting at? If yer thinks yer can come here insulting of 
my wife yer mistaken ; yer've come to the wrong shop." 

" I've paid all I owe," said Esther. " You're no better than 
murderers, but yer shan't have my poor babe to murder for a 
five-pound note." 

" Take back them words, or else I'll do for yer ; take them 
back," he said, raising his fist. 

" Help, help, murder ! " Esther screamed. Before the brute 
could seize her she had slipped past, but before she could 
scream again he had laid hold of her. Esther thought her last 
moment had come. 

" Let 'er go, let 'er go," cried Mrs. Spires, clinging on her 
husband's arm. " We don't want the perlice in 'ere." 

"Perlice, what do I care about the perlice? Let 'er pay 
what she owes." 

" Never mind, Tom ; it is only a trifle. Let her go. Now 
then, take yer hook," she said, turning to Esther; "we don't 
want nothing to do with such as you." 

With a growl the man loosed his hold, and feeling herself 
free, Esther rushed through the open doorway. Her feet flew 
up the wooden steps and she ran out of the street. And so 
shaken were her nerves that the sight of some men drinking in 
a public-house frightened her. She ran on again. There was 
a cab-stand in the next street, and to avoid the cabmen and the 
loafers she hastily crossed to the other 'side. Her heart beat 
violently, her thoughts were in disorder, and she walked a long 
while before she realised that she did not know where she was 
going. She stopped to ask the way, and then remembered 
there was no place where she might go. 

She would have to spend the night in the workhouse, and 
then? She did not know. . . . Her thoughts did not hold 
together, and she again missed her way. All sorts of thoughts 
came upon her unsolicited, and she walked on and on. At 



150 ESTHER WATERS. 

last she rested her burden on the parapet of a bridge, and 
saw the London night, blue and gold, and the vast water 
rolling, rolling, rolling. The spectacle of the stars was like a 
dream from which she could not disentangle her individuality. 
Was she to die in this strange star-lit city, she and her child; 
and why should such cruelty happen to her? The Workhouse, 
the Workhouse, the Workhouse ! It seemed to her that she 
must be going mad. So steadying her thoughts with an 
effort, she said, " Why not go to the workhouse, only for 
the night? . . . She did not mind for herself, only she did 
not wish her boy to go there. But if God willed it. . . . 
It might be all for the best." The consolation was ficti- 
tious, and she walked up the embankment unable to accept 
the inevitable. The night was chill, she drew her shawl 
about her baby and tried once more to persuade herself into 
accepting the shelter of the workhouse. She wondered at the 
pale, glassy moon that floated high up in the sky, and grew 
giddy when she looked at the lights that fell like golden 
daggers from the Surrey shore into the river. The Work- 
house, the Workhouse ! what had she done to deserve it ? 
above all, what had the poor innocent child done to deserve it ? 
She felt that if she once entered the workhouse she would 
remain there. She and her child paupers for ever. " But 
what can I do ? " she asked herself crazily, and sat down 
on one of the seats. 

A young man coming home from an evening party looked at 
her as he passed. She asked herself if she should run after him 
and tell him her story. Why should he not assist her ? He 
could so easily spare it. Would he? But before she could 
decide to appeal to him he had called a passing hansom and 
was soon far away. Then looking at the windows of the great 
hotels, she thought of the folk there who could so easily save 
her from the workhouse if they knew. There must be many 
a kind heart behind those windows who would help her 
if she could only make known her trouble. But that was the 
difficulty. She could not make known her trouble ; she could 
not tell the misery she was enduring. She was so ignorant; 
she could not make herself understood. She would be mis- 
taken for a common beggar. Nowhere would she find any 
one to listen to her . . . only the workhouse. She would 
have to go there. An idea of irreparable wrong choked her, 
and in the delirium of her misery she asked herself if it would 



ESTHER WATERS. 151 

not have been better, perhaps, if she had left him with Mrs. 
Spires. What indeed had the poor little fellow to live for? 
Another young man in evening dress came towards her. He 
looked so happy and easy in life. He walked with long, swinging 
strides. He stopped, and asked her if she was out for a walk. 

" No, sir ; I'm out because I've no place to go." 

"How's that?" 

He sat down beside her, and she told him the story of the 
baby-farmer. He listened to her kindly, and she thought 
that the necessary miracle was about to happen. But he only 
complimented her on her pluck and got up to go. Then she 
understood that he did not care to listen to sad stories. A 
vagrant came and sat down. 

"The 'copper,'" he said, "will be moving us on presently. 
It don't much matter; it's too cold to get to sleep, and I 
think it will rain. My cough is that bad." 

She might beg a night's lodgings of Mrs. Jones. It was far 
away ; she did not think she could walk so far. Mrs. Jones 
might have left, then what would she do? The work- 
house up there was much the same as the workhouse 
down here. But a night's lodging, there was not much good 
in that. Mrs. Jones couldn't keep her for nothing, and 
there was no use trying for another situation as wet-nurse ; 
the hospital would not recommend her again. , . . She must 
go to the workhouse. Then her thoughts wandered irre- 
levantly. She thought of her father, brothers, and sisters, who 
had gone to Australia. She wondered if they had yet arrived, 

if they ever thought of her, if The moonlit city stared 

her in the face. She and her baby were on their way to 
the workhouse. She had never thought she would have come 
as low as this. They were going to become paupers. She 
looked at the vagrant — he had fallen asleep. He knew all 
about the workhouse — should she ask him what it was like ? 
He, too, was friendless. If he had a friend he would not be 
sleeping on the embankment. He could tell her the way. 
Should she ask him? Poor chap, he was asleep. People were 
happy when they were asleep. She did not like to awake him. 

A full moon floated high up in the sky, and the city seemed 
like a faint shadow ; no more than if the blue glassy stillness 
of the night had been breathed upon. She watched the 
glaring moon and the water rolling until her brain grew giddy, 
until, caught in the magnetism of passing things, she longed 



152 ESTHER WATERS. 

to float away with the moon and the river, to be borne away 
out of sight of this world. 

The moon passed lightly overhead ; her baby grew heavy 
in her arms. The vagrant, a bundle of rags thrown forward 
in a heap, slept at the other end of the bench. But she 
could not sleep. ... A belated cab hurried home, its 
rattle died away in the vastness. The intervals of silence 
grew more audible. Then the glassy stillness was broken by 
the measured tramp of the policeman going his rounds. She 
got up to meet him. He directed her to Lambeth workhouse, 
and as she walked towards Westminster she heard him rousing 
the vagrant and bidding him move onward. 



ESTHER WATERS. 153 



XX. 

Those who came to the workhouse for servants never offered 
more than fourteen pounds a year, and these wages would 
not pay for her baby's keep out at nurse. Her friend the 
matron did all she could, but it was always fourteen pounds. 
"We cannot afford more." At last an offer of sixteen pounds 
a year came from a tradesman in Chelsea; and the matron 
introduced Esther to Mrs. Lewis, a lonely widowed woman, 
who for five shillings a week would undertake to look after 
the child. This would leave Esther three pounds a year for 
dress ; three pounds a year for herself. 

What luck ! 

The shop was advantageously placed at a street corner. Twelve 
feet of fronting on the King's Road, and more than half that 
amount on the side street, exposed to every view wall papers 
and stained glass designs. The dwelling-house was over the 
shop ; the shop entrance faced the kerb in the King's Road. 

The Bingleys were dissenters. They were ugly, and exacted 
the uttermost farthing from their customers and their workpeople. 
Mrs. Bingley was a tall gaunt woman, with little grey ringlets on 
either side of her face. She spoke in a sour resolute voice when 
she came down in a wrapper to superintend the cooking. On 
Sundays she wore a black satin, fastened with a cameo brooch, 
and round her neck a long gold chain. Then her manners were 
lofty, and when her husband called " Mother," she answered 
testily, "Don't keep on Mothering me." She frequently stopped 
him to settle his neck-tie or collar. All the week he wore the 
same short jacket; on Sundays he appeared in an ill-fitting 
frock-coat. His long upper lip was clean shaven, but under his 
chin there grew a ring of discoloured hair, neither brown nor red, 
but the neutral tint that hair which does not turn grey acquires. 
When he spoke he opened his mouth wide, and seemed quite 
unashamed of the empty spaces and the three or four yellow 
fangs that remained. 



154 ESTHER WATERS. 

John, the elder of the two brothers, was a silent youth whose 
one passion seemed to be eavesdropping. He hung round 
doors in the hopes of overhearing his sisters' conversation, and 
if he heard Esther and the little girl who helped Esther in her 
work talking in the kitchen, he would steal cautiously half-way 
down the stairs. Esther often thought that his young woman 
must be sadly in want of a sweetheart to take on with one such 
as him. "Come along, Amy," he would cry, passing out 
before her ; and not even at the end of a long walk did he offer 
her his arm ; and they came strolling home just like boy and 
girl. 

Hubert, John's younger brother, was quite different. He 
had escaped the family temperament, as he had escaped the 
family upper lip. He was the one spot of colour in a some- 
what sombre household, and Esther liked to hear him call back 
to his mother, " All right, mother, I've got the key ; no one 
need wait up for me. I'll make the door fast." 

" Oh, Hubert, don't be later than eleven. You are not going 
out dancing again, are you ? Your father will have the electric 
bell put on the door, so that he may know when you come 
in." 

The four girls were all ruddy-complexioned and long upper- 
lipped. The eldest was the plainest; she kept her father's books, 
and made the pastry. The second and third entertained vague 
hopes of marriage. The youngest was subject to hysterics, fits 
of some kind. 

The Bingleys' own house was representative of their ideas, 
and the taste they had imposed upon the neighbourhood. 
The staircase was covered with white drugget, and the white 
enamelled walls had to be kept scrupulously clean. There 
were no flowers in the windows, but the springs of the blinds 
were always in perfect order. The drawing-room was furnished 
with substantial tables, cabinets and chairs, and antimacassars, 
long and wide, and china ornaments and glass vases. There 
was a piano, and on this instrument, every Sunday evening, 
hymns were played by one of the young ladies, and the entire 
family sang in the chorus. 

It was into this house that Esther entered as general servant, 
with wages fixed at ^16 a year. And for seventeen long hours 
every day, for 230 hours every fortnight, she washed, she 
scrubbed, she cooked, she ran errands, with never a moment 
that she might call her own. Every second Sunday she was 



ESTHER WATERS. 155 

allowed out for four, perhaps for four and a half hours, the time 
fixed was from three to nine, but she was expected to be back 
in time to get the supper ready, and if it were many minutes 
later than nine there were complaints. 

Esther had no money. Her quarter's wages would not be 
due for another fortnight, and as they did not coincide with 
her Sunday out, she would not see her baby for another three 
weeks. She had not seen him for a month, and a great longing 
was in her heart to clasp him in her arms again, to feel his soft 
cheek against hers, to take his chubby legs and warm, fat feet 
in her hands. She thought how the four precious hours of 
liberty would slip by, and she would enter on another long 
fortnight of slavery. Twenty times she resigned herself to 
her fate, and as many times — when the matter seemed most 
settled — her soul rose in bitter revolt, and it grew hourly more 
and more impossible for her to renounce this pleasure. She 
must pawn her dress — the only decent dress she had left. What 
would her mistress say ? No matter, she must see the child ; 
she would be able to get the dress out of pawn when she was 
paid her wages. Then she would have to buy herself a pair of 
boots ; and she owed Mrs. Lewis a good deal of money. Five 
shillings a week came to £1$ a year, leaving her £$ a. year 
for boots and clothes, journeys back and forward, and every- 
thing the baby might want. Oh, it was not to be done — she 
never would be able to pull through. She dare not pawn her 
dress ; if she did she'd never be able to get it out again. 
She leaned against the bed she was making, sick and hopeless. 
At that moment something bright lying on the floor, under the 
basin-stand, caught her eye. It was half-a-crown. She looked 
at it, and as the temptation came into her heart to steal, she 
raised her eyes and looked round the room. 

Esther was in John's room, in the sneak's room. No one 
was about. She would have cut off one of her fingers for the 
coin. That half-crown meant pleasure and a happiness so 
tender and seductive that she closed her eyes for a moment. 
The half-crown she held between fore-finger and thumb pre- 
sented a ready solution of the besetting difficulty. Should she 
take it ? But though she threw out the insidious temptation, 
it came quickly upon her again. If she did not. take the half- 
crown she would not be able to go to Peckham on Sunday. 
She could replace the money where she found it when she was 
paid her wages. No one knew it was there, it had evidently 



156 ESTHER WATERS. 

rolled there, and having tumbled between the carpet and the 
wall had not been discovered. It had probably lain there for 
months, perhaps it was utterly forgotten. Besides, she need 
not take it now. It would be quite safe if she put it back in 
its place ; on Sunday afternoon she would take it, and if she 

changed it at once It was not marked. She examined 

it all over. No, it was not marked. Then the desire 
paused, and she wondered how she, an honest girl, who 
had never harboured a dishonest thought in her life before, 
could desire to steal; a bitter feeling of shame came upon 
her. 

It was a case of flying from temptation, and she left the 
room so hurriedly that John, who was spying in the passage, 
had not time either to slip downstairs or to hide in his brother's 
room. They met face to face. 

" Oh, I beg pardon, sir, but I found this half-crown in your 
room." 

"Well, there's nothing wonderful in that. What are you 
so agitated about? I suppose you intended to return it to 
me." 

" Intended to return it ! Of course." Esther stopped. An 
expression of hate and contempt leaped into her handsome 
grey eyes, and, like a dog's, the red lip turned down. She 
suddenly understood that this pasty-faced, despicable chap had 
placed the coin where it might have accidentally rolled, where 
she would be likely to find it. He had complained that 
morning that she did not keep his room sufficiently clean ! It 
was a carefully-laid plan, he was watching her all the while, and 
no doubt thought that it was his own indiscretion that had 
prevented her from falling into the snare. Without a word 
Esther dropped the half-crown at his feet and returned to her 
work j and all the time she remained in her present situation 
she persistently refused to speak to him ; she brought him 
what he asked for, but never answered him, even with a Yes 
or No. 

It was during the few minutes' rest after dinner that the 
burden of the day pressed heaviest upon her ; then a painful 
weariness grew into her limbs, and it seemed impossible to 
summon strength and will to beat carpets or sweep down the 
stairs. But, if she were not moving about before the clock 
struck, Mrs. Bingley came down to the kitchen. 

"Now, Esther, is there nothing for you to do? " 



ESTHER WATERS. 157 

And again, about eight o'clock, she felt too tired to bear the 
weight of her own flesh. She had passed through fourteen 
hours of almost unintermittent toil, and it seemed to her that 
she would never be able to summon up sufficient courage to 
get through the last three hours. It was this last summit that 
taxed all her strength and all her will. Even the rest that 
awaited her at eleven o'clock was blighted by the knowledge 
of the day that was coming; and its cruel hours, long and lean 
and hollow-eyed, stared at her through the darkness. She was 
often too tired to rest, and rolled over and over in her miser- 
able garret bed, her whole body aching. Toil crushed all that 
was human out of her ; even her baby was growing indifferent 
to her. If it were to die ! She did not desire her baby's 
death, but she could not forget what the baby-farmer had 
told her: the burden would not become lighter, it would 
become heavier and heavier. What would become of her? 
Was there no hope ? She buried her face in her pillow, seek- 
ing to escape from the passion of her despair. She was an 
unfortunate girl, and had missed all her chances. 

In the six months she had spent in the house in Chelsea her 
nature had been strained to the uttermost, and what we call 
chance now came to decide the course of her destiny. The 
fight between circumstances and character had gone till now 
in favour of character, but circumstances must call up no 
further forces against character. A hair would turn the scale 
either way. One morning she was startled out of her sleep 
by a loud knocking at the door. It was Mrs. Bingley, who 
had come to ask her if she knew what time it was. It was 
nearly seven o'clock. But Mrs. Bingley could not blame her 
much, having herself forgotten to put on the electric bell. 
Esther hurried through her dressing, but in hurrying she 
happened to tread on her dress, tearing it right across. It 
was most unfortunate, and just when she was most in a hurry. 
She held up the torn skirt. It was a poor frayed worn-out rag 
that would hardly bear mending again. She heard her mistress 
calling; there was nothing for it but to run down and tell her 
what had happened. 

" Haven't you got another dress that you can put on ? " 

" No, ma'am." 

" Really, I can't have you going to the door in that thing. 
You don't do credit to my house ; you must get yourself a new 
dress at once." 



158 ESTHER WATERS. 

Esther muttered that she had no money to buy one. 

"Then I don't know what you do with your money." 

" What I do with my wages is my affair , I've plenty of use 
for my money." 

"I cannot allow any servant of mine to speak to me like 
that." 

Esther did not answer, and Mrs. Bingley continued — 

" It is my duty to know what you do with your money, and 
to see that you do not spend it in any wrong way. I am 
responsible for your moral welfare." 

" Then, ma'am, I think I had better leave you." 

" Leave me, because I don't wish you to spend your money 
wrongfully, because I know the temptations that a young girl's 
life is beset with?" 

"There ain't much chance of temptation for them who work 
seventeen hours a day." 

"Esther, you seem to forget " 

"No, ma'am; but there's no use talking about what I do 
with my money — there are other reasons ; the place is too hard 
a one. I've felt it so for some time, ma'am. My health ain't 
equal to it." 

Once she had spoken, Esther showed no disposition to 
retract, and she steadily resisted all Mrs. Bingley's solicitations 
to remain with her. She knew the risk she was running in 
leaving her situation, and yet she felt she must yield to an 
instinct like that which impels the hunted animal to leave the 
cover and seek safety in the open country. Her whole body 
cried out for rest, she must have rest; that was the thing that 
must be. Mrs. Lewis would keep her and her baby for twelve 
shillings a week ; the present was the Christmas quarter, and 
she was richer by five-and-twenty shillings than she had been 
before. Mrs. Bingley had given her ten shillings, Mr. Hubert 
five, and the other ten had been contributed by the four young 
ladies. Out of this money she hoped to be able to buy a dress 
and a pair of boots, as well as a fortnight's rest with Mrs. 
Lewis. She had determined on her plans some three weeks 
before her month's warning would expire, and henceforth the 
mountainous days of her servitude grew out interminably, 
seeming more than ever exhausting, and the longing in her 
heart to be free at times rose to her head, and her brain turned 
as if in delirium. Every time she sat down to a meal she 
remembered she was so many hours nearer to rest — a fort- 



ESTHER WATERS. 159 



night's rest, she could not afford more; but in her present 
slavery that fortnight seemed at once as a paradise and an 
eternity. Her only fear was that her health might give way, 
and that she would be laid up during the time she intended 
for rest. In this extreme bodily prostration her baby was lost 
sight of. Even a mother demands something in return for her 
love, and in the last year Jackie had taken much and given 
nothing. But when she opened Mrs. Lewis's door he came 
running to her, calling her Mummie. And the immediate 
reference he showed for her, climbing on her knees instead of 
n Mrs. Lewis's, was a fresh sowing of love in the mother's 
eart. 
They were in the midst of those few days of sunny weather 
hich come in January, deluding us so with their brightness 
nd warmth that we look round for roses and are astonished to 
e the earth bare of flowers. And these bright afternoons 
sther spent entirely with Jackie. At the top of the hill their 
ay led through a narrow passage between a brick wall and a 
igh paling. She had always to carry him through this passage, 
r the ground there was sloppy and dirty, and the child 
anted to stop to watch the pigs through the chinks in the 
ards. But when they came to the smooth, wide high roads 
verlooking the valley she put him down, and he would run on 
head, crying, " Turn for a walk, Mummie ; turn along," and 
is little feet went so quickly beneath his frock that it seemed 
if he were on wheels. She followed, oftentime forced to 
reak into a run, tremulous lest he should fall. They descended 
e hill into the ornamental park, and spent happy hours amid 
ometrically designed flower-beds and curving walks. She 
entured with him as far as the old Dulwich village, and they 
rolled through the long street. Behind the street were low- 
ing, shiftless fields, intersected with broken hedges. And 
hen Jackie called to his mother to carry him she rejoiced 
the labour of his weight; and when he grew too heavy 
he rested on the farm-gate, and looked into the vague low- 
nds. And when the chill of night awoke her from her 
ream, she clasped Jackie to her bosom and turned 
owards home, very soon to lose herself again in another tide 
f happiness. 

The evenings, too, were charming. When the candles were 

ighted, and tea was on the table, Esther sat with the dozing 

ild on her knee, looking into the flickering fire, her mind a 



l60 ESTHER WATERS. 

reverie, occasionally broken by the homely talk of her com- 
panion ; and when the baby was laid in his cot, she took up 
her sewing — she was making herself a new dress ; or else the 
great kettle was steaming on the hob, and the women stood 
over the washing-tubs. On the following evening they worked 
on either side of the ironing-table, the candle burning brightly, 
and their vague woman's chatter sounding pleasant in the hush 
of the little cottage. A little after nine they were in bed, and 
so the days went softly, like happy, trivial dreams. It was not 
till the end of the third week that Mrs. Lewis would hear of 
Esther looking out for another place. And then Esther was 
surprised at her good fortune. A friend of Mrs. Lewis's knew 
a servant who was leaving her situation in the West End of 
London. Esther got the address, and went next day after the 
place. She was fortunate enough to obtain it, but she had 
hardly been a week in Onslow Square when she was told that 
her mistress wanted to speak to her in the dining-room. 

"I fancy," said the cook, "that it is about that baby of 
yours ; they're very strict here." 

Esther entered the dining-room. Mrs. Trubner was sitting 
on a low wicker chair by the fire. She was a large woman 
with eagle features. Her eyesight had been failing for some 
years, and her maid was reading to her. The maid closed the 
book and left the room. 

" It has come to my knowledge that you have a child, 
Waters, and you're not a married woman, I believe." 

" Yes, ma'am, I've been unfortunate ; I've a child, but 
that don't make no difference so long as I gives satisfaction 
in my work. I don't think that the cook has complained, 
ma'am." 

" No, the cook hasn't complained, but had I known this I 
don't think I should have engaged you. In the character 
which you showed me Mrs. Barfield said that she believed 
you to be a thoroughly religious girl at heart." 

"And I hope I'm that, ma'am. I'm truly sorry for my 
fault. I've suffered a great deal." 

"So you all say; but supposing it were to happen again, 
and in my house. Supposing " 

"Then, don't you think, ma'am, there is repentance and 
forgiveness. Our Lord said " 

"You ought to have told me; and as for Mrs. Barfield, 
her conduct is most reprehensible." 



ESTHER WATERS. l6l 

"Then, ma'am, would you prevent every poor girl who 
has had a misfortune from earning her bread? if they was 
all like you there would be more girls who'd do away with 
themselves and their babies. You don't know how hard 
pressed we are. The baby-farmer says, ' Give me five pounds 
and I'll find a good woman who wants a little one, and you 
shall hear no more about it.' Them very words were said to 
me. I took him away and hoped to be able to rear him, but 
if I'm to lose my situations " 

" I should be very sorry to prevent any one from earning 
their bread " 

"You're a mother yourself, ma'am, and you know what 
it is." 

" Really it is quite different. ... I don't know what you 
mean, Waters." 

" I mean that if I am to lose my situations on account of 
my baby, I don't know what will become of me. If I give 
satisfaction " 

At that moment Mr. Trubner entered. He was a large 
stout man with his mother's aquiline features. He arrived 
with his glasses on his nose, and slightly out of breath. 

" Oh, oh, I didn't k'lRW, mother," he blurted out and was 
about to withdraw, when Mrs. Trubner said — 

" This is the new servant whom that lady in Sussex 
recommended." 

Esther saw a look of instinctive repulsion come over his face. 

"I'll leave you to settle with her, mother." 

"I must speak to you, Harold, I must." 

" I really can't ; I know nothing of this matter." 

He tried to leave the room, and when his mother stopped 
him, he said testily, "Well, what is it? I am very busy 

just now, and " Mrs. Trubner told Esther to wait in the 

passage. 

"Well," said Mr. Trubner, "have you discharged her? I 
leave all these things to you." 

" She has told me her story ; she is trying to bring up her 
child on her wages. . . . She said if she was kept from earning 

I her bread she didn't know what would become of her. Her 
position is a very terrible one." 
" I know that. . . . But we can't have loose women about 
the place. They all can tell a fine story ; the world is full of 
impostors." 
■■ 



1 62 ESTHER WATERS. 

" I don't think the girl is an impostor." 

"Very likely not, but every one has a right to protect 
themselves." 

" Don't speak so loud, Harold," said Mrs. Trubner, lowering 
her voice. " Remember, her child is dependent upon her ; if 
we send her away we don't know what may happen. I'll pay 
her a month's wages if you like, but you must take the 
responsibility." 

"I won't take any responsibility in the matter. If she 
had been here six months, and had proved a satisfactory 
servant, I don't say that we'd be justified in sending her 
away. . . . There are plenty of good girls who want a situation 
as much as she. I don't see why we should harbour loose 
women when there are so many deserving cases." 

" Then you want me to send her away ? " 

"I don't want to interfere; you ought to know how to 
act. Supposing the same thing were to happen again. My 
cousins, young men, coming to the house " 

" But she won't see them." 

" Do as you like ; it is your business, not mine. It doesn't 
matter to me, so long as I'm not interfered with ; keep her, if 
you like. , . . You ought to have looked into her character 
more closely before you engaged her ... I think that the lady 
who recommended her ought to be written to very sharply." 

They had forgotten to close the door, and Esther stood in 
the passage burning and choking with shame. 

Henceforth it was a chief necessity to keep her child 
secret; and for this she shunned intimacy with her fellow- 
servants, and was so strict in her conduct that she exposed 
herself to their sneers. She dreaded the remark that 
she always went out alone, and often arrived at the 
cottage breathless with fear and expectation — at a little 
cottage where a little boy stood by a stout, middle-aged 
woman, turning over the pages of the illustrated papers 
that his mother had brought him; she had no money 
to buy him toys. Dropping the Illustrated London News, 
he cried, "Here is Mummie," and ran to her with out- 
stretched arms. Ah, what an embrace ! all Esther's soul 
was in it. She drew over her chair; Mrs. Lewis continued 
her sewing, and for an hour or more they sat talking. Esther 
told about her fellow-servants, about the people she lived 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 63 

with, the conversation interrupted by the child calling his 
mother's attention to the pictures, or by the delicate intrusion 
of his little hand into hers. 

Her clothes were her great difficulty, and she often 
thought that she would rather go back to the slavery 
of the house in Chelsea than bear the humiliation of 
going out any longer on Sunday in the old things 
that the servants had seen her in for eight or nine 
months or more. She was made to feel that she was 
the lowest of the low — the servant of servants. She 
had to accept everybody's sneer and everybody's bad 
language, and oftentimes gross familiarity in order to avoid 
arguments and disputes which might endanger her situation. 
She had to shut her eyes to the thefts of cooks; she had 
to fetch them drink, and to do their work when they 
were unable to do it themselves. But there was no help for 
it. She could not pick and choose where she would live, 
and any wages above £16 a year she must always 
accept, and put up with whatever inconvenience she might 
meet. 

Hers is an heroic adventure if one considers it : a mother's 
fight for the life of her child against all the forces that civilisa- 
tion, arrays against the lowly and the illegitimate. She is in a 
situation to-day, but on what security does she hold it ? She 
is strangely dependent on her own health, and still more 
upon the fortunes and the personal caprice of her employers. 
Esther realised the perils of her life very acutely; she 
trembled when an outcast mother at the corner of a street 
stretched out of her rags a brown hand and arm, asking alms 
for the sake of the little children. Three months out of a 
situation, and she too would be on the street as flower-seller, 
match-seller, or 

It did not seem, however, that any of these fears were to 
be realised. Her luck mended; she was now living with 
some rich people in the West End ; she liked her mistress 
and was on good terms with her fellow-servants, and had it 
not been for an accident she could have kept this situation. 
The young gentlemen were home for their summer holidays. 
She was going up to her room, and had stepped aside to let 
Master Harry pass her on the stairs. But he stood staring at 
her with a strange smile on his face. 

" Look here, Esther, I'm awfully fond of you. You are the 



164 ESTHER WATERS. 

prettiest girl I've ever seen. Come out for a walk with me 
next Sunday." 

" Master Harry, I'm surprised at you; will you let me go by 
at once ? " 

There was no one near, the house was silent, and the boy 
stood on the step above her. He tried to throw his arm 
round her waist, but she shook him off and went up to her 
room calm with indignation. A few days after she suddenly 
became aware that he was following her in the street. She 
turned sharply upon him. 

M Master Harry, I know that this is only a little foolishness 
on your part, but if you don't leave off I shall lose my situation, 
and I'm sure you don't want to do me an injury." 

Master Harry seemed sorry, and he promised not to follow 
her in the street again. And never thinking that it was he who 
had written the letter she received a few days after, she asked 
Annie, the upper housemaid, to read it. It contained reference 
to meetings and unalterable affection, and it concluded with a 
promise to marry her if she lost her situation through his fault. 
Esther listened like one stunned. A schoolboy's folly, the first 
silly sentimentality of a boy, a thing lighter than the lightest 
leaf that falls, had brought disaster upon her. 

If Annie had not seen the letter she might have been able 
to get the boy to listen to reason; but Annie had seen the 
letter, and Annie could not be trusted The story would be 
sure to come out, and then she would lose her character as 
well as her situation. It was a great pity. Her mistress had 
promised to have her taught cooking at South Kensington, and 
a cook's wages would secure her and her child against all 
ordinary accidents. She might never get such a chance again. 
She might remain a kitchen-maid to the end of her days. 
Acting on the impulse of the moment she went straight to the 
drawing-room. Her mistress was alone. Esther handed her 
the letter. " I thought you had better see this at once, ma'am. 
I did not want you to think that it was my fault. Of course 
the young gentleman means no harm." 

" Has any one seen this letter?" 

" I showed it to Annie. I'm no scholar myself, and the 
writing is difficult." 

"You have no reason for supposing How often did 

Master Harry speak to you on the way ? " 

"Only twice, ma'am." 



ESTHER WATERS. 165 

"Of course it is only a little foolishness. I needn't say that 
he doesn't mean what he says." 

" I told him, ma'am, that if he continued that I should lose 
my situation." 

" I'm sorry to part with you, Esther, but I really think that 
the best way will be for you to leave. I am much obliged to 
you for showing me this letter. Master Harry, you see, says 
that he is going away to the country for a week. He left this 
morning. So I really think that a month's wages will settle 
matters nicely. You are an excellent servant, and I shall be 
glad to recommend you." 

Then Esther heard her mistress mutter something about 
the danger of good-looking servants. She went to her desk. 
Esther was paid a month's wages, and left that afternoon. 



1 66 ESTHER WATERS. 



XXL 

It was the beginning of August, and London yawned in every 
street ; the dust blew unslaked, and a little cloud curled and 
disappeared over the crest of the hill at Hyde Park Corner ; 
the streets and St. George's Place looked out with blind, 
white eyes ; and in the deserted Park the trees tossed their 
foliage restlessly, as if they wearied and missed the fashion 
of their season. And all through Park Lane and Mayfair, 
caretakers and gaunt cats were the traces that the caste on 
which Esther depended had left of its departed presence. 
She was coming from the Alexandra Hotel, where she had 
heard a kitchen-maid was wanted. Mrs. Lewis had urged her 
to wait until people began to come back to town. Good 
situations were rarely attainable in the summer months, it 
would be bad policy to take a bad one, even if it were only 
for a while ; besides she had saved a little money, and, 
feeling that she required a rest, had determined to take this 
advice. But as luck would have it Jackie fell ill before she 
had been at Dulwich a week. His illness made a big hole 
in her savings, and it had become evident that she would 
have to set to work and at once. 

She turned into the park. She was going north, to a registry 
office near Oxford Street, which Mrs. Lewis had recommended. 
Holborn Row was difficult to find, and she had to ask the 
way very often, but she suddenly knew that she was in 
the right street by the number of servant-girls going and 
coming from the office, and in company with five others 
Esther ascended a gloomy little staircase. The office was 
on the first floor. The doors were open, and they passed 
into a special odour of poverty, as it were, into an atmosphere 
of mean interests. 

Benches covered with red plush were on either side, and 
these were occupied by fifteen or twenty poorly-dressed 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 67 

women. A little old woman, very white and pale, stood 
near the window recounting her misfortunes to no one in 
particular. 

"I lived with her more than thirty years; I brought up 
all the children. I entered her service as nurse, and when 
the children grew up I was given the management of every- 
thing. For the last fifteen years my mistress was a confirmed 
invalid. She entrusted everything to me. Oftentimes she 
took my hand and said, ' You are a good creature, Holmes, 
you mustn't think of leaving me ; how should I get on without 
you ? ' But when she died they had to part with me ; they 
said they were very sorry, and wouldn't have thought of doing 
so, only they were afraid that I was getting too old for the 
work. I daresay I was wrong to stop so long in one situation. 
I shouldn't have done so, but she always used to say, 'You 
mustn't leave us; we never shall be able to get on without 
you."' 

At that moment the secretary, an alert young woman with 
a decisive voice, came through the folding doors. 

"I will not have all this talking," she said. Her quick 
eyes fell on the little old woman, and she came forward a 
few steps. " What, you here again, Miss Holmes ? I've told 
you, that when I hear of anything that will suit you that I'll 
write." 

" So you said, Miss, but my little savings are running short. 
I'm being pressed for my rent." 

" I can't help that ; when I hear of anything I'll write. But 
I can't have you coming here every third day wasting my time 
■ — now run along." And having made casual remarks about 
the absurdity of people of that age coming after situations, she 
called three or four women to her desk, of whom Esther was 
one. She examined them critically, and seemed especially 
satisfied with Esther's appearance. 

" It will be difficult," she said, " to find you the situation 
you want before people begin to return to town. If you were 
only an inch or two taller I could get you a dozen places 
as housemaid, tall servants are all the fashion, and you are 
the right age, about five-and-twenty ? " 

Esther left a dozen stamps with her, and soon after she 
began to receive letters containing the addresses of ladies 
who required servants. They were of all sorts, for the 
Secretary seemed to exercise hardly any discrimination, and 



1 68 ESTHER WATERS. 

Esther was sent on long journeys from Brixton to Notting 
Hill to visit poor people who could hardly afford a maid-of- 
all-work. These useless journeys were very fatiguing. Some- 
times she was asked to call at a house in Bayswater, and 
hence she had to go to High Street, Kensington, or Earl's 
Court ; a third address might be in Chelsea. She could only 
guess which was the best chance, and while she was hesitating 
the situation might be given away. Very often the ladies were 
out, and she was asked to call later in the day. These casual 
hours she spent in the parks, mending Jackie's socks or hem- 
ming pocket-handkerchiefs. So she was frequently delayed 
till evening; and in the mildness of the summer twilight, 
with some fresh disappointment lying heavy on her heart, 
she made her way from the Marble Arch round the barren 
Serpentine into Piccadilly, with its stream of light beginning 
in the sunset. 

And standing at the kerb of Piccadilly Circus, waiting for 
a 'bus to take her to Ludgate Hill Station, the girl grew 
conscious of the moving multitude that filled the streets. The 
great restaurants rose up calm and violet in the evening sky, 
the Cafe Monico, with its air of French newspapers and 
Italian wines, and before the grey facade of the fashionable 
Criterion hansoms stopped and dinner parties walked across 
the pavement. The fine weather had brought the women 
up earlier than usual from the suburbs. They came from 
Piccadilly and passed round the Circus into the enticing 
curve of Regent Street, the white dresses floating from the 
hips, the feather boas waving a few inches from the pavement. 
But through this elegant disguise Esther could pick out the 
servant-girls. She thought how similar their stories were to 
her own. They had been deserted, as she had been ; and, 
perhaps, each had a child to support, only they had not been 
so lucky as she had been in finding situations. 

But now luck seemed to have deserted her. It was the 
middle of September and she had not yet been able to find 
the situation she wanted ; and it had become more and more 
distressing to her to refuse £16 a year. She had calculated 
it all out, and nothing less than £1% was any use to her. 
With ;£i8 and a kind mistress who would give her an old 
dress occasionally she could do very well. But if she didn't 
find these £2 she did not know what she should do. She 
might drag on for a time on ;£i6, but such wages would drive 



ESTHER WATERS. 169 

her in the end into the workhouse. If it were not for the 
child ! But she would never desert her darling boy, who loved 
her so dearly, come what may. A sudden imagination let her 
see him playing in the little street waiting for her to come 
home, and her love for him went to her head like madness. 
She wondered at herself; it seemed almost unnatural to love 
anything as she did this child. 

Then in a shiver of fear she determined to save her 'bus fare, 
and as she made her way through Leicester Square she was a 
good-looking girl who hastened her steps when addressed by 
a passer-by or crossed the roadway in sullen indignation. Silks 
and satins turned into the Empire, and the painted windows 
and domes of the Alhambra glowed in a large space of sky. 
Esther seemed to lose heart utterly. She had been walking 
all day and had not tasted food since the morning, and 
the weakness of the flesh brought a sudden weakness of the 
spirit. She felt that she could struggle no more, that the 
whole world was against her — she felt that she must have food 
and drink and rest. All this London tempted her, and the 
cup was at her lips. A ) 7 oung man in evening clothes had 
spoken to her. His voice was soft, the look in his eyes seemed 
kindly. 

Thinking of the circumstance ten minutes later it seemed 
to her that she had intended to answer him. She was 
then at Charing Cross. There was a lightness, an emptiness 
in her head which she could not overcome, and the crowd 
appeared to her like a blurred, noisy dream. And then the 
dizziness left her, and she realised the temptation she had 
escaped. Here, as in Piccadilly, she could pick out the 
servant-girls ; but here their service was yesterday's lodging- 
house — poor and dissipated girls, dressed in vague clothes 
fixed with hazardous pins. Two young women strolled 
in front of her. They hung on each other's arms, talking 
lazily. They had just come out of an eating-house and a 
happy digestion was in their eyes. The skirt on the outside 
was a soiled mauve, and the bodice that went with it was a 
soiled chocolate. A broken yellow plume hung out of a 
battered hat. The skirt on the inside was a dim green, and 
little was left of the cotton velvet jacket but the cotton. A girl 
of sixteen walking sturdily, like a little man, crossed the road, her 
left hand thrust deep into the pocket of her red cashmere dress. 
She wore on her shoulders a strip of beaded mantle ; her hair 



I/O ESTHER WATERS. 

was plaited and tied with a red ribbon. Corpulent women 
passed, their eyes liquid with invitation. The huge bar-loafer, 
the man of fifty, the hooked nose and the waxed moustache, 
stood at the door of a restaurant, passing the women in review. 
Two young men, with betting-book and bar-room on their 
faces, swaggered out of a tobacconist's. The doors of the 
public-houses were open, and the topers could be seen sitting 
on high stools in varnished interiors. 

And this real Strand crowd rolled along indolently j no one 
in a hurry except the clean-shaven actor, who stopped to 
mention that he had just come up from the Palace. A true 
London of the water's edge — a London of theatres, music- 
halls, wine-shops, public-houses — the walls painted various 
colours, nailed over with huge gold lettering; the pale air 
woven with delicate wire, a gossamer web underneath which 
the crowd moved like lazy flies, one half watching the per- 
forated spire of St. Mary's, and all the City spires behind it 
now growing cold in the east, the other half seeing the spire 
of St. Martin's above the chimney-pots aloft in a sky of cream 
pink. Stalwart policemen urged along groups of slattern boys 
and girls ; and after vulgar remonstrance these took the hint 
and disappeared down strange passages. Suddenly Esther 
came face to face with a woman whom she recognised as 
Margaret Gale. 

" What, is it you, Margaret ? " 

" Yes, it is me all right. What are you doing up here ? Got 
tired of service ? Come and have a drink, old gal." 

" No, thank you ; I'm glad to have seen you, Margaret, but 
I've a train to catch." 

" That won't do," said Margaret, catching her by the arm \ 
" we must have a drink and a talk over old times." 

Esther felt that if she did not have something she would 
faint before she reached Ludgate Hill, and Margaret led the 
way through the public-house, opening all the doors of the 
varnished partitions, seeking a quiet corner. Finding one at 
the extreme end, she went in, holding the door open for 
Esther. " What's the matter ? " she said, startled at the pallor 
of Esther's face. 

"Only a little faintness; I've not had anything to eat all 
day." 

" Quick, quick, four of brandy and some water," Margaret 
cried to the barman, and a moment after she was holding the 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 71 

glass to her friend's lips. " Not had anything to eat all day, 
dear ? Then we'll have a bite and a sup together. I feel a bit 
peckish myself. Two sausages and two rolls and butter," she 
cried. Then the women had a long talk. Margaret told 
Esther the story of her misfortune. The Barfields were all 
broke up. They had been very unlucky racing, and when the 
servants got the sack Margaret had come up to London. She 
had been in several situations. Eventually one of her masters 
had got her into trouble, his wife had turned her out neck and 
crop, and what was she to do ? Then Esther told how Master 
Harry had lost her her situation. 

" And you left like that ? Well I never ! The better one 
behaves the worse one gets treated, and them that goes on with 
service find themselves in the end without as much as will buy 
them a Sunday dinner." 

The women wandered out of the public-house. Margaret 
accompanied Esther as far as Wellington Street. 

" I can't go any further," and pointing to where London 
seemed to end in a piece of desolate sky, she said, " I live on 
the other side, in Stamford Street You might come and see 
me, if you ever get tired of service ; you'll get decent rooms 
there." 

Bad weather followed fine, and under a streaming umbrella 
Esther went from one address to another, her damp skirts 
clinging about her and her boots clogged with mud. She 
looked upon the change in the weather as unfortunate, for in 
getting a situation so much depended on personal appearance 
and cheerfulness of manner ; and it is difficult to seem a right 
and tidy girl after two miles' walk through the rain. 

One lady told Esther that she liked tall servants, another 
said she never engaged good-looking girls, and another place 
that would have suited her was lost through unconsciously 
answering that she was chapel. The lady would have nothing 
in her house but church. Then there were the disappointments 
occasioned by the letters which she received from people whom 
she thought would have engaged her, saying they were sorry, 
but that they had seen some one whom they liked better. 

Another week passed, and Esther had begun to pawn her 
clothes to get sufficient money for her train-fare to London, and 
to keep the registry office supplied with stamps. Her prospects 
had begun to seem quite hopeless, and she lay awake thinking 
that she and Jackie must go back to the workhouse. They 



172 ESTHER WATERS. 

could not stop on at Mrs. Lewis's much longer. Mrs. Lewis 
had been very good to them, but Esther owed her two weeks' 
money. What was to be done ? Esther had heard of charit- 
able institutions, but she was an ignorant girl and did not 
know how to make the necessary inquiries. Oh, the want of a 
little money, of a very little money ; the thought beat into her 
brain. For just enough to hold on till the people came back 
to town. 

One day Mrs. Lewis, who read the newspapers for her, came 
to her with an advertisement which she said seemed to read 
like a very likely chance. Esther looked at the pence which 
remained out of the last dress that she had pawned. 

" I'm afraid," she said, " it will turn out like the others ; I'm 
out of my luck." 

' ' Don't say that," said Mrs. Lewis ; " keep your courage up , 
I'll stick to you as long as I can." 

The women had a good cry in each other's arms, and then 
Mrs. Lewis advised Esther to take the situation even if it were 
no more than sixteen. " A lot can be done by constant saving, 
and if she gives yer 'er dresses and ios. for a Christmas-box, I 
don't see why you should not pull through. The baby shan't 
cost you more than 5s. a week till you get a situation as plain 
cook. Here is the address — Miss Rice, Avohdale Road, West 
Kensington." 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 73 



XXII. 

Avondale Road was an obscure corner of the suburb — 
obscure, for it had just sprung into existence. The scaffolding 
that had built it now littered an adjoining field, where in a few 
months it would rise about Horsely Gardens, whose red gables 
and tiled upper walls will correspond unfailingly with those 
of Avondale Road. Nowhere in this neighbourhood could 
Esther detect signs of eighteen pounds a year. Scanning the 
Venetian blinds of the single drawing-room window she said to 
herself, "Hot joint to-day, cold the next." She noted the 
trim iron railings and the spare shrubs, and raising her eyes 
she saw the tiny gable windows of the cupboard-like rooms 
where the single servant kept in these houses slept. 

A few steps more brought her to 41, the corner house. 
The thin passage and the meagre staircase confirmed Esther 
in the impression she had received from the aspect of the 
street; and she felt that the place was more suitable to the 
gaunt woman with iron-grey hair who waited in the passage. 
This woman looked apprehensively at Esther. She asked if 
Esther had come after the place, and when Esther said she 
had, a painful change of expression passed over her face, and 
she said — 

" You'll get it ; I'm too old for anything but charing. How 
much are you going to ask?" 

" I can't take less than sixteen." 

" Sixteen ! I used to get that once ; I'd be glad enough 
to get twelve now. You can't think of sixteen once you've 
turned forty, and I've lost my teeth, and they means a couple 
of pound off." 

Then the door opened, and a woman's voice called to the 
gaunt woman to. come in. She went in, and Esther breathed 
a prayer that she might not be engaged. Hardly a minute 
intervened. The gaunt woman came out ; there were tears in 



174 ESTHER WATERS. 

her eyes, and she whispered to Esther as she passed, "No 
good ; I told you so. I'm too old for anything but charing." 
The abruptness of the interview suggested a hard mistress, 
and Esther was surprised and pleased to find herself in the 
presence of a slim lady, about seven-and-thirty, whose small 
grey eyes seemed to express a kind and gentle nature. The 
room was a lady's study. A tall glass filled with chrysanthe- 
mums stood on a large writing-table covered with books and 
papers. There was a bookcase, and the walls were covered 
with a grey artistic paper, on which hung a few engravings. 
In place of the usual folding-doors a bead curtain hung 
between the rooms. 

The room almost said that the occupant was a spinster and 
a novelist. Miss Rice's manuscript, written out in a beautiful 
clear round hand, lay on the table, ready to be continued the 
moment she should have settled with a servant. 

" I saw your advertisement in the paper, Miss ; I've come 
after the situation." 

" You are used to service ? n 

"Yes, Miss, I've had several situations in gentlemen's 
families, and have excellent characters from them all." Then 
Esther related the story of her situations. Miss Rice put up 
her glasses and her grey eyes smiled, and she seemed pleased 
with the somewhat rugged but pleasant-featured girl before her. 

" I live alone," she said ; " the place is an easy one, and if 
the wages satisfy you I think you will suit me very well. My 
servant, who has been with me some years, is leaving me to be 
married." 

"What are the wages, Miss?" 

" Fourteen pounds a year." 

" I'm afraid, Miss, there would be no use my taking the 
place ; I've so many calls on my money that I could not 
manage on fourteen pounds. I'm very sorry, for I feel sure I 
should like to live with you, Miss." 

But what was the good of taking the place? She could 
not possibly manage on fourteen, even if Miss Rice did give 
her a dress occasionally, and that didn't look likely. All 
her strength seemed to give way under her misfortune, and it 
was with difficulty that she restrained her tears. 

" I think we should suit each other," Miss Rice said 
reflectively. " I should like to have you for my servant if I 
could afford it. How much would you take?" 



ESTHER WATERS. 175 

" Situated as I am, Miss, I could not take less than sixteen. 
I've been used to eighteen." 

" Sixteen pounds is more than I can afford, but I'll think it 
over. Give me your name and address." 

" Esther Waters, 13 Poplar Road, Dulwich.'* 

As Esther turned to go she became aware of the kindness of 
the eyes that looked at her. Miss Rice said — 

" I'm afraid you're in trouble. ... Sit down ; tell me about 
it." 

a No, Miss, what's the use?" But Miss Rice looked at her 
so kindly that Esther could not restrain herself. " There's 
nothing for it," she said, "but to go back to the workhouse." 

11 But why should you go to the workhouse ? I offer you 
;£i4 a year and everything found." 

" You see, Miss, I've a baby ; we've been in the workhouse 
already; I had to go there the night I left my situation to 
get him away from Mrs. Spires ; she wanted to kill him ; 
she'd have done it for five pounds — that's the price. But, 
Miss, my story is not one that can be told to a lady such as 
you." 

" I think I'm old enough to listen to your story; sit down, 
and tell it to me." 

Esther told her story, and all the while Miss Rice's eyes were 
filled with tenderness and pity. 

" A very sad story, just such a story as happens every day. 
But you have been punished, you have indeed." 

"Yes, Miss, I think I have; and after all these years of 
striving it is hard to have to take him back to the workhouse. 
Not that I want to give out that I was badly treated there, but 
it is the child I'm thinking of. He was then a little baby and 
it didn't matter; we was only there a few months. There's 
no one that knows of it but me. But he's a growing boy 
now, he'll remember the workhouse, and it will be always a 
disgrace." 

"How old is he?" 

" He was six last May, Miss. It has been a hard job to bring 
him up. I now pay six shillings a week for him, that's more than 
fourteen pounds a year, and you can't do much in the way of 
clothes on two pounds a year. And now that he's growing up 
he's costing more than ever; but Mrs. Lewis, that's the woman 
what has brought him up, is as fond of him as I am myself. She 
don't want to make nothing out of his keep, and that's how 



176 ESTHER WATERS. 

I've managed up to the present. But I see well enough that it 
can't be done ; his expense increases, and the wages remains 
the same. It was my pride to bring him up on my earnings, 
and my hope to see him an honest man earning good money. 
But it wasn't to be, Miss, it wasn't to be. We must be humble 
and go back to the workhouse." 

" I can see that it has been a hard fight." 

" It has indeed, Miss j no one will ever know how hard. I 
shouldn't mind if it wasn't going to end by going back to 
where it started. . . . They'll take him from me; I shall 
never see him while he is there. I wish I was dead, Miss, I 
can't bear my trouble no longer." 

" You shan't go back to the workhouse so long as I can help 
you. Esther, I'll give you the wages you ask for. It is more 
than I can afford. ;£i8 a year! But your child shall not be 
taken from you. You shall not go to the workhouse. There 
aren't many such good women in the world as you, Esther." 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 77 



XXIII. 

From the first Miss Rice was interested in her servant, and 
encouraged her confidences. But it was some time before 
either was able to put aside her natural reserve. They were 
not unlike — quiet, instinctive Englishwomen, strong, warm 
natures, under an appearance of formality and reserve. 

The instincts of the watch-dog soon began to develop in 
Esther, and she extended her supervision over all the house- 
hold expenses, likewise over her mistress's health. 

" Now, Miss, I must 'ave you take your soup while it is 'ot. 
You'd better put away your writing ; you've been at it all the 
morning. You'll make yourself ill, and then I shall have the 
nursing of you." If Miss Rice were going out in the evening 
she would find herself stopped in the passage. " Now, Miss, I 
really can't see you go out like that ; you'll catch your death of 
cold. You must put on your warm cloak." 

Miss Rice's friends were principally middle-aged ladies. Her 
sisters, large stout women, used to come and see her, and there 
was a fashionably-dressed young man whom her mistress seemed 
to like very much. Mr. Alden was his name, and Miss Rice 
told Esther that he too wrote novels ; they used to talk about 
each other's books for hours, and Esther feared that Miss Rice 
was giving her heart away to one who did not care for her. But 
perhaps she was satisfied to see Mr. Alden once a week and 
talk for an hour with him about books. Esther didn't think 
she'd care if she had a young man to ^see him come and 
go like a shadow. But she hadn't a young man, and did 
not want one. All she now wanted was to awake in the morn- 
ing and know that her child was safe : her ambition was to make 
her mistress's life comfortable. And for more than a year she 
pursued her plan of life unswervingly. She declined an offer 
of marriage, and was rarely persuaded into a promise to walk 
out with any of her admirers. One of these was the stationer's 



178 ESTHER WATERS. 

foreman, and almost every day Esther went to the stationers 
for the sermon paper on which her mistress wrote her novels, 
for blotting-paper, for stamps, to post letters — that shop 
seemed the centre of their lives. 

Fred Parsons, that was his name, was a meagre little man 
about thirty-five. A high and prominent forehead rose above 
a small pointed face, and scanty growth of blond beard and 
moustache did not conceal the receding chin nor the red 
sealing-wax lips. His faded yellow hair was beginning to 
grow thin, and his threadbare frock coat hung limp from 
sloping shoulders. But these disadvantages were compen- 
sated by a clear bell-like voice into which no trace of doubt 
ever seemed to come ; and his mind was neatly packed with 
a few religious and political ideas. He had been in business 
in the West End, but an uncontrollable desire to ask every 
customer who entered into conversation with him if he were 
sure that he believed in the second coming of Christ had 
been the cause of severance between him and his em- 
ployers. He had been at West Kensington a fortnight, 
had served Esther once with sermon paper, and had 
already begun to wonder what were her religious beliefs. 
But bearing in mind his recent dismissal, he refrained for the 
present. At the end of the week they were alone in the shop. 
Esther had come for a packet of note-paper; Fred was sorry she 
had not come for sermon paper; if she had it would have 
been easier to inquire her opinions regarding the second 
coming. But the opportunity, such as it was, was not to be 
resisted. He said — 

"Your mistress seems to use a great deal of paper; it was 
only a day or two ago that I served you with four quires." 

" That was for her books; what she now wants is note-paper." 

" So your mistress writes books ? " 

"Yes." 

" I hope they're good books — books that are helpful." He 
paused to see that r\o one was within earshot. " Books that 
bring sinners back to the Lord." 

"I don't know what she writes; I only know she writes 
books ; I think I've heard she writes novels." 

Fred did not approve of novels, Esther could see that, 
and she was sorry; for he seemed a nice, clear-spoken 
young man, and she would have liked to tell him that 
her mistress was the last person who would write anything 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 79 

that could do harm to any one. But her mistress was 
waiting for her paper and she took leave of him hastily. The 
next time they met was in the street. Esther was going to see 
if she could get some fresh eggs for her mistress's breakfast 
before the shops closed. Coming towards her, walking at a 
great pace, she saw some one whom she thought she recognised, 
a meagre little man with long reddish hair curling under the 
brim of a large soft black hat. He nodded, smiling pleasantly 
as he passed her. 

" Lor','' she thought, " I didn't know him ; it's the stationer's 
foreman." The very next evening they met in the same street; 
she was out for a little walk, he was hurrying to catch his 
train. They stopped to pass the time of day, and three days 
after they met once more, about eight o'clock in the evening, 
and as nearly as possible at the same place. 

" We're always meeting," he said. 

" Yes ; isn't it strange ? . . . You come this way from 
business," she said. 

" Yes ; about eight o'clock is my time." 

It was at the end of August; the stars caught fire slowly 
and the smoky London sunset showed sad and dim at the end 
of the suburban streets ; and, vaguely conscious of a feeling of 
surprise at the pleasure they took in each other's company, 
they wandered round a little bleak square in which a few 
shrubs had just been planted. They took up the conver- 
sation exactly at the point where it had been broken off. 

" I'm sorry," Fred said, " that the paper isn't going to be 
put to better use." 

" You don't know my mistress or you wouldn't say that." 

" Perhaps you don't know that novels are very often stories 
about the loves of men for other men's wives. Such books 
can serve no good purpose." 

" I'm sure my mistress don't write about such things. How 
could she, poor dear innocent lamb; it is easy to see you 
don't know her." 

In the course of their argument it transpired that Miss Rice 
went to neither church nor chapel. 

Fred was much shocked. 

"I hope," he said, "you do not follow your mistress's 
example." 

Esther admitted that she had for some time past neglected 
her religion. Fred went so far as to suggest that she ought 



180 ESTHER WATERS. 

to leave her present situation and enter a truly religious 
family. 

" I owe her too much ever to think of leaving her. And it 
has nothing to do with her if I haven't thought as much about 
the Lord as I ought to have. It's the first place I've been in 
where there was time for religion." 

This answer seemed to satisfy Fred. 

" Where used you to go ? " 

" My people — father and mother — belonged to the 
Brethren." 

" To the Close or the Open ? " 

" I don't remember ; I was only a little child at the time." 

"I'm a Plymouth Brother." 

11 Well, that is strange." 

" Remember that it is only through belief in our Lord, in 
the sacrifice of the Cross, that we can be saved." 

" Yes, I believe that." 

The avowal seemed to have brought them strangely near to 
each other, and on the following Sunday Fred took Esther to 
meeting, and introduced her as one who had strayed but who 
had never ceased to be one of them. 

She had not been to meeting since she was a little 
child; and the bare room and bare dogma, in such imme- 
diate accordance with her own nature, — were they not 
associated with memories of home, of father and mother, 
of all that had gone? — touched her with a deep human 
delight. It was Fred who preached ; he spoke of the 
second coming of Christ, when the faithful would be carried 
away in clouds of glory, and of the rapine and carnage to 
which the world would be delivered up before final absorption 
in everlasting hell. A sensation of dreadful awe passed over 
the listening faces, and a young girl who sat with closed eyes 
put out her hand to assure herself that Esther was still there — 
that she had not been carried away in glory. 

Esther told Fred as they walked home that she had not 
been so happy for a long while. He pressed her hand, and 
thanked her with a look in which appeared all his soul ; she 
was his for ever and ever; nothing could wholly disassociate 
them; he had saved her soul. His exaltation moved her 
to wonder. But her own innate faith, though incapable of 
these exaltations, had stood her in good stead during many a 
troublous year. Her thought passed on. Fred would want her 



ESTHER WATERS. I8l 

to come to meeting with him next Sunday, and she was going to 
Dulwich. Sooner or later he would find out that she had a child, 
then she would see him no more. It were better that she should 
tell him than that he should hear it from others. But she 
felt she could not bear the humiliation, the shame ; and she 
wished they had never met. That child came between her 
and every possible happiness. ... It were better to break off 
with Fred. But what excuse could she give? Everything 
went wrong with her. He might ask her to marry him, — 
then she would have to tell him. 

Towards the end of the week she heard some one tap at the 
window; it was Fred. He asked her why he had not seen 
her ; she answered that she had not had time. 

" Can you come out this evening ? " 

" Yes, if you like." 

She put on her hat, and they went out. Neither spoke, but 
their feet took instinctively the pavement that led to the little 
square where they had walked the first time they went out 
together. 

" I've been thinking of you a good deal, Esther, in the last 
few days. I want to ask you to marry me." 

Esther did not answer. 

"Will you? "he said. 

" I can't, I'm very sorry; don't ask me." 

"Why can't you?" 

" If I told you I don't think you'd wa'nt to marry me. I 
suppose I'd better tell you. I'm not the good woman you 
think me. I've got a child. There, you have it now, and 
you can take your hook when you like." 

It was her blunt, sullen nature that had spoken; she didn't 
care if he left her on the spot — now he knew all and could do 
as he liked. At last he said — 

" But you've repented, Esther ? " 

" I should think I had, and been punished too, enough for 
a dozen children." 

" Ah, then it wasn't lately ? " 

" Lately! It's nearly eight year ago." 

" And all that time you've been a good woman ? " 

" Yes, I think I've been that." 

"Then if " 

" I don't want no ifs. If I am not good enough for you, you 
can go elsewhere and get better; I've had enough of reproaches." 



1 82 ESTHER WATERS. 

" I did not mean to reproach you ; I know that a woman's 
path is more difficult to walk in than ours. It may not be a 
woman's fault if she falls, but it is always a man's. He can 
always fly from temptation." 

11 Yet there isn't a man that can say he hasn't gone wrong." 

" No, not all, Esther." 

Esther looked him full in the face. 

" I understand what you mean, Esther, but I can honestly 
say that I never have." 

Esther did not like him better for his purity, and was 
irritated by the clear tones of his icy voice. 

" But that is no reason why I should be hard on those who 
have not been so fortunate. I didn't mean to reproach you 
just now, Esther; I only meant to say that I wish you had told 
me this before I took you to meeting." 

" So you're ashamed of me, is that it ? Well, you can keep 
your shame to yourself." 

" No, not that, Esther " 

" Then you'd like to see me humiliated before the others, as 
if I haven't had enough of that already." 

" No, Esther, listen to me. Those who transgress the moral 
law may not kneel at the table for a time, until they have 
repented ; but those who believe in the sacrifice of the cross 
are acquitted, and I believe you do that." 

"Yes." 

" A sinner that repenteth I will speak about this at 

our next meeting; you'll come with me there?" 

" Next Sunday I'm going to Dulwich to see the child." 

"Can't you go after meeting?" 

" No, I can't be out morning and afternoon both." 

" May I go with you?" 

"To Dulwich!" 

" You won't go until after meeting ; I can meet you at the 
railway station." 

"If you like." 

As they walked home Esther told Fred the story of her 
betrayal. He was interested in the story, and was very sorry 
for her. 

" I love you, Esther ; it is easy to forgive those we love." 

" You're very good; I never thought to find a man so good." 
She looked up in his face ; her hand was on the gate, and in 
that moment she felt that she almost loved him. 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 83 



XXIV. 

Mrs. Humphries, an elderly person who looked after a 
bachelor's establishment two doors up, and generally slipped 
in about tea-time, soon began to speak of Fred as a very nice 
young man who would be likely to make a woman happy. 
Esther moved about the kitchen in her taciturn way, hardly 
answering. Suddenly she told Mrs. Humphries that she had 
been to Dulwich with him, and that it was wonderful how 
he and Jackie had taken to one another. 

" You don't say so ! Well, it is nice to find them religious 
folk less 'ard-'earted than they gets the name of." 

Mrs. Humphries was of opinion that henceforth Esther 
should give herself out as Jackie's aunt. "None believes 
them .stories, but they makes one seem more respectable like, 
and I'm sure Mr. Parsons will appreciate the attention." 
Esther did not answer, but she thought of what Mrs. Hum- 
phries had said. Perhaps it would be better if Jackie were to 
leave off calling her Mummie. Auntie ! But no, she could 
not bear it. Fred must take her as she was or not at all. 
They seemed to understand each other ; he was earning good 
money, 30s. a week. She was now going on for eight-and- 
twenty; if she was ever going to be married it was time to 
think about it. 

" I don't know how that dear soul will get on without me," 
she said one October morning as they jogged out of London 
by a slow train from St. Paul's. Fred was taking her into 
Kent to see his people. 

" How do you expect me to get on without you ? " 

Esther laughed. 

" Trust you to manage somehow. There ain't much fear of 
a man not looking after his little self." 

" But the old folk will want to know when. What shall I 
tell them ? " 



1 84 ESTHER WATERS. 

"This time next year; that'll be soon enough. Perhaps 
you'll get tired of me before then." 

" Say next spring, Esther." 

The train stopped. 

" There's father waiting for us in the spring -cart. Father ! 
He don't hear us. He's gone a bit deaf of late years. Father !" 

"Ah, so here you are. Train late." 

1 ' This is Esther, father." 

They were going to spend the day at the farm-house, and 
Esther wondered what it would be like. She was going to be 
introduced to Fred's sisters and to his brother. But these 
did not concern her much, her thoughts were set on Mrs. 
Parsons. Fred had spoken a great deal about his mother. 
When she had been told about Jackie she was of course 
very sorry; but when she had heard the whole of Esther's 
story, she had said : " We are all born into temptation, 
and if your Esther has really repented and prayed to be 
forgiven, we must not say no to her." Nevertheless Esther 
was not quite easy in her mind, and half regretted that she had 
consented to see Fred's people until he had made her his wife. 
But it was too late to think of such things. There was the 
farm-house. Fred had just pointed it out, and scenting his 
stable the old grey ascended the hill at a trot. He stopped 
before a little paling. Michaelmas daisies withered in the 
garden, and the Virginia creeper covered one side of the 
house with a crimson mantle. The old man said he would 
take the trap round to the stable, and Fred walked up the 
red-bricked pavement and lifted the latch. As they passed 
through the kitchen Fred introduced Esther to his two sisters, 
Mary and Lily. Both were busy cooking. 

" Mother is in the parlour," said Mary ; " she is waiting for 
you." 

By the window in a wide wooden arm-chair sat a large 
woman about sixty, dressed in black. She wore on either side 
of her long white face two corkscrew curls, which gave her 
a somewhat ridiculous appearance. But she ceased to be 
ridiculous or grotesque when she rose from her chair to greet 
her son. Her face beamed, and she held out her hands in a 
beautiful gesture of welcome. 

"Oh, how do you do, dear Fred? I am that glad to see 
you ! How good of you to come all this way ! Come and sit 
down here." 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 85 

" Mother, this is Esther." 

"How do you do, Esther? It was good of you to come. 
I am glad to see you. Let me get you a chair. Take off your 
things, dear; come and sit down." 

She insisted on relieving Esther of her hat and jacket, and 
having laid them on the sofa she waddled across the room, 
drawing over two chairs. 

" Come and sit down ; you'll tell me everything. I can't 
get about much now, but I like to have my children round me. 
Take this chair, Esther." Then turning to Fred, "Tell me, Fred, 
how you've been getting on. Are you still living at Hackney ? " 

" Yes, mother ; but when we're married we're going to have a 
cottage at Mortlake. Esther will like it better than Hackney. 
It is nearer the country." 

"Then you've not forgotten the country. Mortlake is on 
the river, I think. I hope you won't find it too damp." 

"No, mother, there are some nice cottages there. I 
think we shall find that Mortlake suits us. There are many 
friends there, more than fifty meet together every Sunday. 
And there's a lot of political work to be done there. I know 
that you're against politics, but men can't stand aside nowa- 
days. Times change, mother." 

" §0 long as we have God in our hearts, my dear boy, all 
that we do is well. But you must want something after your 
journey. Fred, dear, knock at that door. Your sister Clara's 
dressing there. Tell her to make haste." 

"All right, mother," cried a voice from behind the partition 
which separated the rooms, and a moment after the door 
opened and a young woman about thirty entered. She was 
better-looking than the other sisters, and the fashion of her 
skirt, and the worldly manner with which she kissed her 
brother and gave her hand to Esther, marked her off at once 
from the rest of her family. Clara was forewoman in a large 
millinery establishment. She spent Saturday afternoon and 
Sunday at the farm. To-day she had got away earlier, and, 
with the view to impressing Esther, she explained how this 
was. 

Mrs. Parsons suggested a glass of currant wine, and Lily 
came in with a tray and glasses. Clara asked when dinner 
would be ready. Mary said she would have to wait, and Lily 
whispered, " In about half-an-hour." 

After dinner the old man said that they must be getting on 



1 86 ESTHER WATERS. 

with their work in the orchard. Esther said she would be 
glad to help, but as she was about to follow the others Mrs. 
Parsons detained her. 

"You don't mind staying with me a few minutes, do you, dear? 
I shan't keep you long." She drew over a chair for Esther. "I 
shan't perhaps see you again for some time; I am getting an old 
woman, and the Lord may be pleased to take me at any moment. 
I wanted to tell you, dear, that I put my trust in you. You 
will make a good wife to Fred, I feel sure, and he will make a 
good father to your child, and if God blesses you with other 
children he'll treat your first no different than the others. 
He's told me so, and my Fred is a man of his word. You 
were led into sin, but you've repented. We was all born 
into temptation, and we must trust to the Lord to lead us 
out lest we should dash our foot against a stone." 

" I was to blame, I don't say I wasn't, but " 

" We won't say no more about that. We're all sinners, the 
best of us. You're going to be my son's wife ; you're therefore 
my daughter, and this house is your home whenever you 
please to come to see us. And I hope that that will be often. 
I like to have my children about me. I can't get about much 
now, so they must come to me. It is very sad not to be able 
to go to meeting. I've not been to meeting since Christmas, 
but I can see them going there from the kitchen window, and 
how 'appy they look coming back from prayer. It is easy to 
see that they have been with God. The Salvationists come 
this way sometimes. They stopped in the lane to sing; I 
could not hear the words, but I could see by their faces that 
they was with God. . . , Now, I've told you all that was on 
my mind. I must not keep you ; Fred is waiting." 

Esther kissed the old woman and went into the orchard. 
Fred was on a ladder shaking the branches, but he came down 
when he saw Esther, and Harry, his brother, took his place. 
Esther and Fred filled one basket, then, yielding to a mutual 
inclination, they wandered about the orchard, stopping on 
the little plank bridge. They hardly spoke at all, words 
seemed unnecessary; each felt happiness to be in the other's 
presence. They heard the water trickling through the weeds, 
and as the light waned the sound of the falling apples grew 
more distinct. Then a breeze shivered among the tops of 
the apple trees, and the sered leaves were blown from the 
branches. The voices of the gatherers were heard crying 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 87 

that their baskets were full. They crossed the plank bridge, 
joking the lovers, who stood aside to let them pass. A red 
moon rose behind the hillside into a dark leaden sky. 

When they entered the house they saw the old farmer, 
who had slipped in before them, sitting by his wife 
holding her hand, patting it in a curious old-time way, and 
the attitude of the old couple was so pregnant with signifi- 
cance that it fixed itself on Esther's mind. It seemed to her 
that she had never seen anything so beautiful. So they had 
lived for forty years, faithful to each other to the end. She 
wondered if Fred would be sitting by her side holding her 
hand forty years hence. 

The old man lighted a lantern and went round to the 
stable to get the trap out. They drove through the dark 
country, and village lights shone out of distant solitudes. A 
peasant came like a ghost out of the darkness ; he stepped 
aside and called " Good-night !" which the old farmer answered 
somewhat gruffly, while Fred answered in a ringing cheery 
tone. Never had Esther spent so long and happy a day — a 
day so intimately in accord with the principles of her nature. 
Everything had combined to produce a strange exaltation of 
the spirit in her ; and she listened to Fred more tenderly than 
she had done before. 

The train rattled on through suburbs beginning far away 
in the country; rattled on through suburbs that thickened 
at every mile; rattled on through a brick entanglement; 
rattled over iron bridges, passed over deep streets, over end- 
less lines of lights. 

Fred bade Esther good-bye at the area gate. She had 
promised him that they should be married in the spring, and 
he went away with a light heart. She ran upstairs to tell her 
dear mistress of the happy day which her kindness had 
allowed her to spend in the country. Miss Rice laid the 
book she was reading on her knees and listened to Esther's 
account of her pleasures as if they had been her own 
enjoyment. 



1 88 ESTHER WATERS. 



XXV. 

But when the spring came she put Fred off till the autumn, 
pleading as an excuse that Miss Rice had not been very well 
lately, and that she did not like to leave her. 

It was one of those long and pallid evenings at the end of 
July, when the sky seems as if it could not darken. The 
roadway was very still in its dust and heat, and Esther, her 
print dress trailing, watched a poor horse striving to pull a 
four-wheeler through the loose heavy gravel that had just been 
laid down. So absorbed was she in her pity for the poor 
animal that she did not see the gaunt, broad-shouldered man 
coming towards her, looking very long-legged in a pair of light 
grey trousers and a black jacket a little too short for him. He 
walked with long, even strides, a small cane in one hand, the 
other in his trousers pocket ; a heavy gold chain showed across 
his waistcoat. He wore a round hat and a red necktie. The 
side whiskers and the shaven upper lip gave him the 
appearance of a gentleman's valet. He did not notice Esther, 
but a sudden step taken sideways as she lingered, her eyes 
fixed on the cab horse, brought her nearly into collision with 
him. 

" Do look where you are going to," he exclaimed, jumping 
back to avoid the beer jug, which fell to the ground. " What, 
Esther, is it you ? " 

"There, you have made me drop the beer." 
"Plenty more in the public; I'll get you another jug." 
" It is very kind of you. I can get what I want myself." 
They looked at each other, and at the end of a long silence 
William said : " Just fancy meeting you, and in this way ! 
Well I never ! Well, I am glad to see you again." 

" Are you really ! Well, so much for that — your way and 
mine aren't the same. I wish you good evening." 
"Stop a moment, Esther." 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 89 

"And my mistress waiting for her dinner. I've to go and 
get some more beer." 

" Shall I wait for you ? " 

" Wait for me ! I should think not, indeed." 

Esther ran down the area steps. Her hand paused as it was 
about to lift the jug down from the dresser, and a number of 
thoughts fled across her mind. That man would be waiting 
for her outside. What was she to do ? How unfortunate ! If 
he continued to come after her he and Fred would be sure to 
meet. 

"What are you waiting for, I should like to know?" she 
cried, as she came up the steps. 

" That's 'ardly civil, Esther, and after so many years too ; 
one would think " 

" I want none of your thinking ; get out of my sight. Do 
you 'ear ? I want no truck with you whatever. Haven't you 
done me enough mischief already ? " 

" Be quiet ; listen to me. I'll explain." 

" I don't want none of your explanation. Go away." 

Her whole nature was now in full revolt, and quick with 
passionate remembrance of the injustice that had been done 
her, she drew back from him, her eyes flashing. Perhaps it 
was some passing remembrance of the breakage of the first 
beer jug that prevented her from striking him with the second. 
The spasm passed, and then her rage, instead of venting itself 
in violent action, assumed the form of dogged silence. He 
followed her up the street, and into the bar. She handed the 
jug across the counter, and while the barman filled it, searched 
in her pocket for the money. She had brought none with her. 
William promptly produced sixpence. Esther answered him 
with a quick angry glance, and addressing the barman, she 
said, "I'll pay you to-morrow; that'll do, I suppose? 41 
Avondale Road. " 

"That will be all right, but what am I to do with this six- 
pence?" 

" I know nothing about that," Esther said, picking up her 
skirt ; " I'll pay you for what I've had." 

Holding the sixpence in his short, thick, and wet fingers, 
the barman looked at William. William smiled, and said, 
"Well, they do run sulky sometimes." 

He caught the leather strap and pulled the door open for 
her, and as she passed out she became aware that William still 



190 ESTHER WATERS. 

admired her. She hated him for it. And in a vague way she 
was conscious of the injustice of fate. Having destroyed her 
life, this man had passed out of sight and knowledge, but only 
to reappear when a vista leading to a new life seemed open 
before her. 

" It was that temper of yours that did it ; you wouldn't speak 
to me for a fortnight. You haven't changed, I can see that," 
he said, watching Esther's face, which did not alter until he 
spoke of how unhappy he had been in his marriage. "A 
regular brute she was — we're no longer together, you know; 
haven't been for the last three years ; could not put up with 'er. 
She was that — but that's a long story." Esther did not answer 
him. He looked at her anxiously, and seeing that she would 
not be won over easily, he spoke of his money. 

" Look 'ere, Esther," he said, laying his hand on the area 
gate. "You won't refuse to come out with me some Sunday. 
I've a half a share in a public-house, the ' King's Head,' and 
have been backing winners all this year. I've plenty of money 
to treat you. I should like to make it up to you. Perhaps 
you've 'ad rather a 'ard time. What 'ave yer been doing all 
these years ? I want to hear." 

"What 'ave I been doing? Trying to bring up your child, 
that's what I've been doing." 

" There's a child then, is there ? " said William, taken aback. 
Before he could recover himself Esther had slipped past him 
down the area into the house. For a moment he looked as if 
he were going to follow her; on second thoughts he thought he 
had better not. He lingered a moment and then walked 
slowly away in the direction of the Metropolitan Railway. 

"I'm sorry to 've kept you waiting, Miss, but I met with an 
accident and had to come back for another jug." 

"And what was the accident you met with, Esther?" 

" I wasn't paying no attention, Miss ; I was looking at a cab 
that could hardly get through the stones they've been laying 
down in the Pembroke Road ; the poor little 'orse was pulling 
that 'ard that I thought he'd drop down dead, and while I was 
looking I ran up against a passer-by, and being a bit taken 
aback I dropped the jug." 

" How was that ? Did you know the passer-by ? " 

Esther busied herself with the dishes on the sideboard ; and, 
divining that something serious had happened to her servant, 
Miss Rice refrained and allowed the dinner to pass in silence. 



ESTHER WATERS. 191 

Half-an-hour after Esther came into the study with her mistress's 
tea. She brought over the wicker table, and as she set it by 
her mistress's knees the shadows about the bookcase and the 
light of the lamp upon the book and pensive content on Miss 
Rice's face impelled her to think of her own troubles, the hard- 
ship, the passion, and despair of her life compared with 
this tranquil existence. Never had Esther felt more certain 
that misfortune was inherent in her life. She remembered all 
the trouble she had had, she wondered how she had come out 
of it all alive ; and now, just as things seemed like settling, 
everything was going to be upset again. Fred was away for a 
fortnight's holiday — she was safe for eleven or twelve days. 
After that she did not know what might not happen. Her instinct 
told her that although he had passed over her fault very lightly, 
so long as he knew nothing of the father of her child, he might 
not care to marry her if William continued to come after her. 
Ah ! if she hadn't happened to go out at that particular time 
she might never have met William. He did not live in the 
neighbourhood ; if he did they would have met before. Per- 
haps he had just settled in the neighbourhood. That would be 
worst of all. No, no, no ; it was a mere accident ; if the cask 
of beer had held out a day or two longer, or if it had run out a 
day or two sooner, she might never have met William ! But 
now she could not keep out of his way. He spent the whole 
day in the street waiting for her. If she went out on an 
errand he followed her there and back. ... If she'd only 
listen. . . . She was prettier than ever. . . . He had never 
cared for any one else. . . He would marry her when he got 
his divorce, and then the child would be theirs. Esther did 
not answer him, but her blood boiled at the word "theirs.'' 
How could Jackie become their child ? Was it not she who 
had worked for him, brought him up ? and she thought as little 
of his paternity as if he had fallen from heaven into her arms. 

One evening as she was laying the table her grief took her 
unawares, and she was obliged to dash aside the tears that had 
risen to her eyes. The action was so apparent that Miss Rice 
thought it would be an affectation to ignore it. So she said in 
her kind, musical, intimate manner, " Esther, I'm afraid you 
have some trouble on your mind ; can I do anything for you ? " 
"No, Miss, no, it's nothing; I shall get over it presently." 
But the effort of speaking was too much for her, and a bitter 
sob caught her in the throat. 



192 ESTHER WATERS. 

"You had better tell m. your trouble, Esther; even if I 
cannot help you it will ease your heart to tell me about it. I 
hope nothing is the matter with Jackie?" 

" No, Miss, no ; thank God he's well enough. It's nothing 

to do with him ; leastways " Then with a violent effort she 

put back her tears. " Oh, it is silly of me," she said, " and 
your dinner getting cold." 

" I don't want to pry into your affairs, Esther, but you know 
that " 

" Yes, Miss, I know you to be kindness itself; but there's 
nothing to be done but to bear it. You asked me just now if 
it had anything to do with Jackie. Well, it is no more than 
that his father has come back." 

"But surely, Esther, that's hardly a reason for sorrow; I 
should have thought that you would have been glad." 

" It is only natural that you should think so, Miss ; them 
what hasn't been through the trouble never thinks the same as 
them that has. You see, Miss, it is nearly nine years since I've 
seen him, and during them nine years I 'ave been through so 
much — no one will ever know how much. I 'ave worked and 
slaved, and been through all the 'ardship, and now, when the 
worst is over, he comes and wants me to marry him when he 
gets his divorce." 

" Then you like some one else better ? " 

" Yes, Miss, I does ; that's just it, and I am not ashamed to 
own up to it. What makes it so 'ard to bear is that for the last 
two months or more I've been keeping company with Fred 
Parsons — that's the stationer's assistant; you've seen him in 
the shop, Miss — and he and me is engaged to be married. 
He's earning good money, thirty shillings a week ; he's as good 
a young man as ever stepped — religious, kind-hearted, every- 
thing as would make a woman 'appy in 'er 'ome. It is 'ard 
for a girl to keep up with 'er religion in some of the situations 
we have to put up with, and I'd mostly got out of the habit 
of chapel-going till I met him ; it was 'e who led me back 
again to Christ. But for all that, understanding very well, not 
to say indulgent for the failings of others, like yourself, Miss. 
He knew all about Jackie from the first, and never said nothing 
about it, but that I must have suffered cruel, which I have. 
He's been with me to see Jackie, and they both took to each 
other wonderful like ; it couldn't 'ave been more so if 'e'd been 
'is own father. But now all that's broke up, for when Fred 



ESTHER WATERS. 193 

meets William it is as likely as not as he'll think quite 
different." 

The evening died behind the red-brick suburb, and Miss 
Rice's strip of garden grew greener. She had finished her 
dinner, and she leaned back thinking of the story she had 
heard. She was one of those secluded maiden ladies so 
common in England, whose experience of life is limited to a 
tea-party, and whose further knowledge of life is derived from 
the yellow-backed French novels which fill their bookcases. 
Esther stood facing her mistress, a dark silhouette upon the 
window. 

" How was it that you happened to meet William — I think 
you said his name was William ? " 

" It was the day, Miss, that I went to fetch the beer from 
the public-house. It was he that made me drop the jug; you 
remember, Miss, I had to come back for another. I told you 
about it at the time. When I went out again with a fresh jug 
he was waiting for me ; he followed me to the ' Greyhound ' and 
wanted to pay for the beer — not likely that I'd let him : I told 
them to put it on the slate and that I'd pay for it to-morrow. 
I didn't speak to him on leaving the bar, but he followed me 
to the gate. He wanted to know what I'd been doing all the 
time. , Then my temper got the better of me, and I said, 
' Looking after your child.' 

11 ' My child ! ' says he. • So there's a child, is there ? ' " 

"I think you told me that he married one of the young 
ladies at the place you were then in situation ? " 

" Young lady ! No fear, she wasn't no young lady. Any- 
way, she was too good or too bad for him ; for they didn't get 
on, and are now living separate." 

" Does he speak about the child ? Does he ask to see him ? " 

"Lor', yes, Miss; he'd the cheek to say the other day that 
we'd make him our child — our child indeed! and after all 
these years I've been working and he doing nothing." 

" Perhaps he might like to do something for him ; perhaps 
that's what he's thinking of." 

" No, Miss, I know him better than that. That's his 
cunning ; he thinks he'll get me through the child." 

"In any case I don't see what you'll gain by refusing to 
speak to him ; if you want to do something for the child, you 
can. You said that he was proprietor of a public-house." 

"I don't want his money. We've done without it long 

13 



194 ESTHER WATERS. 

enough; please God, we'll be able to do without it to the 
end." 

"If I were to die to-morrow, Esther, remember that you 
would be in exactly the same position as you were when you 
entered my service. You remember what that was? You 
have often told me that there was only is. 6d. between you 
and the workhouse ; you owed Mrs. Lewis two weeks' money 
for the support of the child. I daresay you've saved a little 
money since you've been with me, but it cannot be more than 
a few pounds. I don't think that you ought to let this chance 
slip through your fingers, if not for your own, for Jackie's sake. 
William, according to his own account, is making money. He 
may become a rich man ; he has no children by his wife ; he 
might like to leave some of his money — in any case, he'd like 
to leave something — to Jackie." 

" He was always given to boasting about money. I don't 
believe all he says about money or anything else." 

" That may be, but he may have money, and you have no 
right to refuse to allow him to provide for Jackie. Supposing 
later on Jackie were to reproach you ? " 

"Jackie 'd never do that, Miss; he'd know I acted for the 
best." 

"If you again found yourself out of a situation and saw 
Jackie crying for his dinner, you'd reproach yourself." 

" I don't think I should, Miss." 

" I know you are very obstinate, Esther. When does 
Parsons return ? " 

" In about a week, Miss." 

" Without telling William anything about Parsons, you'll be 
able to find out whether it is his intention to interfere in your 
life. I quite agree with you that it is important that the men 
should not meet ; but it seems to me, by refusing to speak to 
William, by refusing to let him see Jackie, you are doing all 
you can to bring about the meeting that you wish to avoid. Is 
he much about here ? " 

"Yes, Miss, he seems hardly ever out of the street, and it 
do look so bad for the 'ouse. I do feel that ashamed. Since 
I've been with you, Miss, I don't think you've 'ad to complain 
of followers." 

"Well, don't you see, you foolish girl, that he'll remain 
hanging about, and the moment Parsons comes back he'll hear 
of it. You'd better see to this at once." 



ESTHER WATERS. T95 

" Whatever you says, Miss, always do seem right, some'ow. 
What you says do seem that reasonable, and yet I don't know- 
how to bring myself to go to 'im. I told 'im that I didn't want 
no truck with 'im." 

" Yes, I think you said so. It is a delicate matter to advise 
any one in, but I feel sure I am right when I say that you have 
no right to refuse to allow him to do something for the child. 
Jackie is now eight years old, you've not the means of giving 
him a proper education, and you know the disadvantage it has 
been to you not to know how to read and write." 

" Jackie can read beautifully — Mrs. Lewis 'as taught him." 

"Yes, Esther; but there's much besides reading and writing. 
Think over what I've said ; you're a sensible girl ; think it out 
when you go to bed to-night." 

Next day, seeing William in the street, she went upstairs to 
ask Miss Rice's permission to go out. " Could you spare me, 
Miss, for an hour or so ? " was all she said. Miss Rice, who 
had noticed a man loitering, replied, " Certainly, Esther." 

" You aren't afraid to be left in the house alone, Miss ? I 
shan't be far away." 

" No. I'm expecting Mr. Alden. I'll let him in, and can 
make the tea myself." 

Esther ran up the area steps and walked quickly down the 
street, as if she were going on an errand. William crossed the 
road and was soon alongside of her. 

" Don't be so 'ard on a chap," he said. " Just listen to 
reason." 

" I don't want to listen to you ; you can't have much to say 
that I care for." 

Her tone was still stubborn, but he perceived that it con- 
tained a change of humour. 

" Come for a little walk, and then, if you don't agree with 
what I says, I'll never come after you again." 

" You must take me for a fool if you think I'd pay attention 
to your promises." 

" Esther, hear me out ; you're very unforgiving, but if you'd 
hear me out " 

"You can speak; no one's preventing you that I can 
see." 

" I can't say it off like that ; it is a long story. I know that 
I've behaved badly to you, but it wasn't as much my fault as 
you think; I could explain a good lot of it." 



196 ESTHER WATERS. 

" I don't care about your explanations. If you've only got 
explanations " 

" There's that boy." 

" Oh, it is the boy you're thinking of? " 

11 Yes, and you too, Esther. The mother can't be separated 
from the child." 

" Very likely ; the father can, though." 

" If you talk that snappish I shall never get out what I've to 
say. I've treated you badly, and it is to make up for the past 
as far as I can " 

"And how do you know that you aren't doing harm by 
coming after me ? " 

" You mean you're keeping company with a chap, and don't 
want me ? " 

"You don't know I'm not a married woman; you don't 
know what kind of situation I'm in. You comes after me just 
because it pleases your fancy, and don't give it a thought that 
you mightn't get me the sack, as you got it me before." 

" There's no use nagging ; just let's go where we can have a 
talk, and then if you aren't satisfied you can go your way and I 
can go mine. You said I didn't know that you wasn't married. 
I don't, but if you aren't so much the better. If you are, 
you've only to say so and I'll take my hook. I've done quite 
enough harm, without coming between you and your hus- 
band." 

William spoke earnestly, and his words came so evidently 
from his heart, that Esther was touched against her will. 

" No, I ain't married yet," she replied. 

" I'm glad of that." 

" I don't see what odds it can make to you whether I'm 
married or not. If I ain't married, you are." 

William and Esther walked on in silence, listening to the 
day as it hushed in quiet, suburban murmurs. The sky was 
almost colourless — a faded grey, that passed into an insignifi- 
cant blue; and upon this almost neutral tint the red suburb 
appeared in rigid outline, like a carving. At intervals the wind 
raised a cloud of dust in the roadway. William stopped before 
a piece of waste ground. " Let's go in there," he said; "we'll 
be able to talk easier." Esther raised no objection. They 
went in and looked for a place where they could sit down. 

" This is just like old times," said William, moving a little 
closer. 



ESTHER WATERS. 197 

" If you are going to begin any of that nonsense, I'll get up 
and go. I only came out with you because you said you had 
something particular to say about the child ! " 

" Well, it is only natural that I should like to see my son." 

" How do you know it's a son ? " 

" I thought you said so. I should like it to be a boy — is 
it?" 

" Yes, it is a boy, and a lovely boy too, very different to his 
father. I've always told him that his father is dead." 

" And is he sorry ? " 

" Not a bit. I've told him his father wasn't good to me ; 
and he don't care for those who haven't been good to his 
mother." 

"I see you've brought him up to hate me ? " 

" He don't know nothing about you ; how should 'e ? " 

"Very likely, but there's no need to be that particular nasty, 
as I've said before ; what's done can't be undone. I treated 
you badly, I know that ; and I've been badly treated myself, 
damned badly treated. You've 'ad a 'ard time; so have I, 
if that's any comfort to ye." 

" I suppose it is wrong of me ; but seeing you has brought 
up a deal of bitterness, more than I thought there was in me." 

William lay at length, his body resting on one arm. He 
held a long grass stalk between his small, discoloured teeth. 
The conversation had fallen. He looked at Esther ; she sat 
straight up, her stiff cotton dress spread over the rough 
grass; her cloth jacket was unbuttoned. He thought her 
a nice-looking woman, and he imagined her behind the bar 
of the " King's Head." His marriage had proved childless 
and in every way a failure ; he now desired a wife such as 
he felt sure she would be, and his heart hankered sorely after 
his son. He tried to read Esther's quiet subdued face. It 
was graver than usual, and betrayed none of the passion that 
choked in her. She must manage that the men should not 
meet. How should she rid herself of him ? She noticed that 
he was looking at her ; and to lead his thoughts away from 
herself she asked him where he had gone with his wife 
when they left Woodview. Breaking off suddenly, he said — 

"Sally knew all the time I was gone on you." 

" It don't matter about that. Tell me where you went ; 
they said you went foreign." 

"We went first to Boulogne, that's in France, but nearly 



198 ESTHER WATERS. 

every one speaks English there, and there was a nice billiard- 
room handy, where all the big betting-men came in of an 
evening. We went to the races. I backed three winners 
on the first day ; the second I didn't do so well. 

"Then we went on to Paris. The race-meetings is very 
'andy, I will say that for Paris — half-an-hour's drive and there 
you are." 

" Did your wife like Paris ? " 

"Yes, she liked it pretty well — it is all the place for fashion 
and the shops is grand, but she got tired of it too, and we 
went to Italy." 

" Where's that ? " 

" That's down south. A beast of a place — nothing but sour 
wine and all the cookery done in oil, and nothing to do but 
seeing picture-galleries. I got that sick of it I could stand it 
no longer, and I said, ' I've 'ad enough of this. I want to 
go home, where I can get a glass of Burton and a cut from 
the joint, and where there's a horse worth looking at' " 

M But she was very fond of you. She must have been." 

" She was, in her way. But she always liked talking to 
the singers and the painters that we met out there. Nothing 
wrong, you know. That was after we had been married about 
three years." 

" What was that ? " 

" That I caught her out." 

" How do you know there was anything wrong ? Men 
always think bad of women." 

" No, it was right enough ; she had got dead sick of me, 
and I had got dead sick of her. It never did seem natural 
like. There was no 'omeliness in it, and a marriage that 
ain't 'omely is no marriage for me. Her friends weren't my 
friends ; and as for my friends, she never left off insulting me 
about them. If I was to ask a chap in she wouldn't sit in the 
same room with him. That's what it got to at last. And I 
was always thinking of you, and your name used to come up 
when we was talking. One day she said, ' I suppose you are 
sorry you didn't marry a servant ? ' and I said, ' I suppose you 
are sorry you did ? ' " 

" That was a good one for her. Did she say she was ? " 

" She put her arms round my neck and said she loved none 
but her big Bill. But all her flummery didn't take me in. 
And I says to myself, ' Keep an eye on her.' For there was 



ESTHER WATERS. 1 99 

a young fellow hanging about in a manner I didn't particularly 
like. He was too anxious to be polite to me, always talked 
to me about 'orses, and I could see he knew nothing about 
them. He even went so far as to go down to Kempton with 
me." 

" And how did it all end ? " 

11 1 determined to keep my eye on this young whipper- 
snapper, and come up from Ascot by an earlier train than 
they expected me. I let myself in and ran up to the drawing- 
room. They were there sitting side by side on the sofa. I 
could see that they were very much upset. The young fellow 
turned red, and he got up, stammering, and speaking a lot 
of rot. 

11 ' What, you back already ? How did you get on at 
Ascot ? Had a good day ? ' 

" ' Rippin' ; but I'm going to have a better one now,' I said, 
keeping my eye all the while on my wife. I could see by her 
face that there was no doubt about it. Then I took him by 
the throat. ' I just give you two minutes to confess the truth ; 
I know it, but I want to hear it from you. Now, out with it, 
or I'll strangle you.' I gave him a squeeze just to show him 
that I meant it. He turned up his eyes, and my wife cried 
• Murder ! ' I threw him back from me and got between her 
and the door, locked it, and put the key in my pocket. 
1 Now/ I said, ' I'll drag the truth out of you both.' He 
did look white, he shrivelled up by the chimney-piece, and 
she — well, she looked as if she could have killed me, only 
there was nothing to kill me with. I saw her look at the 
fire-irons. Then, in her nasty sarcastic way, she said : 
' There's no reason, Percy, why he shouldn't know. Yes,' 
she said, ' he is my lover ; you can get your divorce when 
you like.' 

" I was a bit taken aback; my idea was to squeeze it all out 
of the fellow and shame him before her. But she spoilt my 
little game there, and I could see by her eyes that she knew 
that she had. 'Now, Percy,' she said, 'we'd better go.' That 
put my blood up. I said, ' Go you shall, but not till I give 
you leave,' and without another word I took him by the collar 
and led him to the door ; he came like a lamb, and I sent him 
off with as fine a kick as he ever got in his life. He went 
rolling down, and didn't stop till he got to the bottom. You 
should have seen her look at me ; there was murder in her 



200 ESTHER WATERS. 

eyes. If she could she'd have killed me, but she couldn't, 
and calmed down a bit. ' Let me go ; what do you want me 
for ? You can get a divorce. . . . I'll pay the costs.' 

" ' I don't think I'd gratify you so much. So you'd like 
to marry him, would you, my beauty ? ' 

" ' He's a gentleman, and I've had enough of you ; if you 
want money you shall have it.' 

" I laughed at her, and so it went on for an hour or more. 
Then she seemed suddenly to calm down. I knew something 
was up, only I didn't know what. I don't know if I told you 
we was in lodgings — the usual sort, drawing-room with folding- 
doors, the bedroom at the back. She went into the bedroom, 
and I followed, just to make sure she couldn't get out that way. 
There was a chest of drawers before the door ; I thought she 
couldn't move it, and went back into the sitting-room. But 
somehow she managed to move it without my hearing her, and 
before I could stop her she was down the stairs like lightning. 
I went after her, but she had too long a start of me, and the 
last I heard was the street door go bang." 

The conversation paused. William took the stalk he was 
chewing from his teeth, and threw it aside. Esther had picked 
one, and with it she beat impatiently among the grass. 

"But what has all this to do with me ? " she said. "If this 
is all you have brought me out to listen to " 

" That's a nice way to round on me. Wasn't it you what 
asked me to tell you the story ? " 

" So you've deserted two women instead of one, that's about 
the long and the short of it." 

" Well, if that's what you think I'd better be off," said William, 
and he rose to his feet and stood looking at her. She sat 
quite still, not daring to raise her eyes ; her heart was throbbing 
violently. Would he go away and never come back? Should 
she answer him indifferently or say nothing? She chose 
the latter course. Perhaps it was the wrong one, for her 
dogged silence irritated him, and he sat down and begged 
of her to forgive him. He would wait for her. Then her 
heart ceased throbbing, and a cold numbness came over her 
hands. 

" My wife thought that I had no money, and could do what 
she liked with me. But I had been backing winners all the 
season, and had a couple of thousand in the bank. I put a 
thousand aside for working expenses, for I intended to give up 



ESTHER WATERS. 201 

backing horses and go in for bookmaking instead. I have 
been at it ever since. A few ups and downs, but I can't 
complain. I am worth to-day close on three thousand 
pounds." 

At the mention of so much money Esther raised her eyes. 
She looked at William steadfastly. Her object was to rid 
herself of him, so that she might marry another man; but 
at that moment a sensation of the love she had once felt 
for him sprang upon her suddenly. 

" I must be getting back, my mistress will be waiting for 
me." 

" You needn't be in that hurry. It is quite early. Besides, 
we haven't settled nothing yet." 

" You've been telling me about your wife. I don't see much 
what it's got to do with me." 

" I thought you was interested, that you wanted to see I 
wasn't as much to blame as you thought." 

The evening was gathering very dark in the corners of the 
waste ground. "I must be getting back," she said; "any- 
thing else you have to say to me you can tell me on the way 
home." 

"Well, it all amounts to this, Esther: if I get a divorce we 
might come together again. What do you think ? " 

"I, think you'd much better make it up with her. I dare- 
say she's very sorry for what she's done." 

"That's all rot, Esther. She ain't sorry, and wouldn't live 
with me no more than I with her. We could not get on; 
what's the use ? You'd better let bygones be bygones. You 
know what I mean — marry me." 

" I don't think I could do that." 

" You like some other chap. You like some chap, and don't 
want me interfering in your life. That's why you wants me to 
go back and live with my wife. You don't think of what I've 
gone through with her already." 

"You've not been through half of what I have. I'll be 
bound that you never wanted a dinner. I have." 

" Esther, think of the child." 

" You're a nice one to tell me to think of the child, I who 
worked and slaved for him all these years." 

" Then I'm to take No for an answer ? " 

" I don't want to have nothing to do with you." 

11 And you won't let me see the child ?" 



202 ESTHER WATERS. 

A moment after Esther answered, " You can see the child, if 
you like." 

"Where is he?" 

" You can come with me to see him next Sunday, if you 
like. Now let me go in." 

" What time shall I come for you ? " 

" About three— a little after." 



ESTHER WATERS. 203 



XXVI. 

William was waiting for her in the area ; and while pinning 
on her hat she thought of what she should say, and how she 
should act. Should she tell him that she wanted to marry 
Fred ? Then the long black pin that was to hold her hat to 
her hair went through the straw with a little sharp sound, and 
she decided that when the time came she would know what 
to say. 

As he stepped aside to let her go up the area steps, she 
noticed how beautifully dressed he was. He wore a pair of 
grey trousers, and in his spick and span morning-coat there 
was a bunch of carnations. 

They walked some half-dozen yards up the street in silence. 

" But why do you want to see the boy ? You never thought 
of him all these years." 

" I'll tell you, Esther. . . . But it is nice to be walking out 
with you again. If you'd only let bygones be bygones we 
might settle down together yet. What do you think ? " 

Esther did not answer, and he continued, " It do seem 
strange to be walking out with you again, meeting you after 
all these years, and I'm never in your neighbourhood. I just 
happened to have a bit of business with a friend who lives 
your way, and was coming along from his 'ouse, turning over 
in my mind what he had told me about Rising Sun for the 
Stewards' Cup, when I saw you coming along with the jug in 
your 'and. I said, ' That's the prettiest girl I've seen this many 
a day; that's the sort of girl I'd like to see behind the bar of 
the "King's Head."' You always keeps your figure — you 
know you ain't a bit changed; and when I caught sight of 
those white teeth I said, ' Lor', why it's Esther.' " 

" I thought it was about the child you was going to speak to 
me." 

"So I am, but you came first in my estimation. The 



204 ESTHER WATERS. 

moment I looked into your eyes I felt it had been a mistake 
all along, and that you was the only one I had cared about." 

" Then all about wanting to see the child was a pack of lies ? " 

" No, they weren't lies. I wanted both mother and child — 
if I could get 'em, ye know. I'm telling you the unvarnished 
truth, Esther. I thought of the child as a way of getting you 
back ; but little by little I began to take an interest in him, to 
wonder what he was like, and with thoughts of the boy came 
different thoughts of you, Esther, who is the mother of my 
boy. Then I wanted you both back ; and I've thought of 
nothing else ever since." 

At that moment they reached the Metropolitan Railway, and 
William pressed forward to get the tickets. A subterraneous 
rumbling was heard, and they ran down the steps as fast as 
they could, and seeing them so near the ticket-collector held 
the door open for them, and just as the train was moving from 
the platform William pushed Esther into a second-class com- 
partment. 

" We're in the wrong class," she cried. 

" No, we ain't ; get in, get in," he shouted. And with the 
guard crying to him to desist, he hopped in after her, saying, 
" You very nearly made me miss the train. What 'ud you've 
done if the train had taken you away and left me behind ? " 

The remark was not altogether a happy one. 

"Then you travel second-class? " Esther said. 

"Yes, I always travel second-class now; Sally never would, 
but second seems to me quite good enough. I don't care 
about third, unless one is with a lot of pals, and can keep the 
carriage to ourselves. That's the way we manage it when we 
go down to Newmarket or Doncaster." 

They were alone in the compartment. William leaned 
forward and took her hand. 

" Try to forgive me, Esther." 

She drew her hand away; he got up, sat down beside her, 
and put his arm round her waist. 

" No, no. I'll have none of that. All that sort of thing is 
over between us." 

He looked at her inquisitively, not knowing how to act. 

" I know you've had a hard time, Esther. Tell me about it. 
What did you do when you left Woodview?" He unfortu- 
nately added, " Did you ever meet any one since that you 
cared for ? " 



ESTHER WATERS. 205 

The question irritated her, and she said, " It don't matter to 
you who I met or what I went through." 

The conversation paused. William spoke about the Bar- 
fields, and Esther could not but listen to the tale of what 
had happened at Woodview during the last eight years. 

Woodview had been all her unhappiness and all her mis- 
fortune. She had gone there when the sap of life was flowing 
fastest in her, and Woodview had become the most precise and 
distinct vision she had gathered from life. She remembered 
that wholesome and ample country house, with its park and its 
down lands, and the valley farm, sheltered by the long lines of 
elms. She remembered the race-horses, their slight forms 
showing under the grey clothing, the round black eyes looking 
out through the eyelet holes in the hanging hoods, the odd 
little boys astride — a string of six or seven passing always 
before the kitchen windows, going through the paddock gate 
under the bunched evergreens. She remembered the rejoic- 
ings when the horse won at Goodwood, and the ball at the 
Shoreham Gardens. Woodview had meant too much in her 
life to be forgotten ; its hillside and its people were drawn out 
in sharp outline on her mind. Something in William's voice 
recalled her from her reverie, and she heard him say — 

" The poor Gaffer, 'e never got over it ; it regular broke 'im 
up. I forgot to tell you, it was Ginger who was riding. It 
appears that he did all he knew : he lost start, he tried to get 
shut in, but it warn't no go, luck was against them ; the 'orse 
was full of running, and, of course, he couldn't sit down and 
saw his blooming 'ead off, right in th' middle of the course, 
with Sir Thomas's (that's the 'andicapper) field-glasses on 
him. He'd have been warned off the blooming 'eath, and he 
couldn't afford that, even to save his own father. The 'orse 
won in a canter; they clapped eight stun on him for the 
Cambridgeshire. It broke the Gaffer's 'eart. He had to sell 
off his 'orses, and he died soon after the sale. He died of 
consumption. It generally takes them off earlier; but they 
say it is in the family. Miss May " 

" Oh, tell me about her," said Esther, who had been think- 
ing all the while of Mrs. Barfield and of Miss Mary. " Tell 
. me, there's nothing the matter with Miss Mary ? " 

" Yes, there is : she can't live no more in England ; she has 
to go to winter, I think it is in Algeria." 

At that moment the train screeched along the rails, and 



206 ESTHER WATERS. 

vibrating under the force of the brakes, it passed out of the 
tunnel into Blackfriars. 

" We shall just be able to catch the ten minutes past four to 
Peckham," she said. They ran up the high steps, and William 
strode along so fast that Esther was obliged to cry out, 
" There's no use, William ; train or no train, I can't walk at 
that rate." 

They had just time to get their tickets at Ludgate Hill. 
They were in a carriage by themselves, and he proposed to 
draw up the windows so that they might be able to talk more 
easily. He was interested in the ill-luck that- had attended 
certain horses, Esther wanted to hear about Mrs. Barfield. 

" You seem to be very fond of her, what did she do for 
you ? " 

"Everything — that was after you went away. She was 
kind." 

" I'm glad to hear that," said William. 

"So they spends the summer at Woodview and goes to 
foreign parts for the winter ? " 

"Yes, that's it. Most of the estate was sold; but Mrs. 
Barfield, the saint — you remember we used to call her the 
saint — well, she has her fortune, about five hundred a year, 
and they just manage to live there in a sort of hole-and-corner 
sort of way. They can't afford even to keep a trap, and 
towards the end of October they go off and don't return till 
the beginning of May. Woodview ain't what it was. You 
remember the stables they were putting up when Silver Braid 
won the two cups ? Well, they are just as when you last saw 
them — rafters and walls." 

" Racing don't seem to bring no luck to any one. It ain't 
my affair, but if I was you I'd give it up and get to some 
honest work." 

" Racing has been a good friend to me. I don't know 
where I should be without it to-day." 

" So all the servants have left Woodview. I wonder what 
has become of them." 

" You remember my mother, the cook ; she died a couple 
of years ago." 

" Mrs. Latch ! Oh, I'm so sorry." 

" She was an old woman. You remember John Randal, the 
butler? He's in a situation in Cumberland Place, near the 
Marble Arch. He sometimes comes round and has a glass in 



ESTHER WATERS. 207 

the 'King's Head' Sarah Tucker — she's in a situation some- 
where in town. I don't know what has become of Margaret 
Gale." 

" I met her one day in the Strand. I'd had nothing to eat 
all day. I was almost fainting, and she took me into a public- 
house and gave me a sausage." 

The train began to slacken speed, and William said, " This 
is Peckham." 

They handed up their tickets, and passed into the air of an 
irregular little street — low disjointed shops and houses, where 
the tramcars tinkled through a slacker tide of humanity than 
the Londoners were accustomed to. 

" This way," said Esther. "This is the way to the Rye." 

"Then Jackie lives at the Rye? " 

" Not far from the Rye. Do you know East Dulwich ? " 

" No, I never was here before." 

"Mrs. Lewis (that's the woman who looks after him) lives 
at East Dulwich, but it ain't very far. I always gets out here. 
I suppose you don't mind a quarter of an hour's walk." 

"Not when I'm with you," William replied gallantly, and 
he followed her through the passers-by. 

A hundred yards further on, the Rye opened up like a 
large park, beginning in the town and wending far away into a 
country prospect. At the Peckham end there were a dozen 
handsome trees, and under them a piece of artificial water 
where boys were sailing toy boats, and a poodle was swimming. 
Two old ladies in black came out of a garden full of holly- 
hocks; they walked towards a seat and sat down in the 
autumn landscape. And as William and Esther pursued their 
way the Rye seemed to grow longer and longer. It opened 
up into a vast expanse full of the last days of cricket, and it 
was charming with its slender trees, its Japanese pavilion 
quaintly placed on a little mound, and its upland background 
rising in gradations, interspaced with villas, terraces, and 
gardens. A steep hillside, showing fields and hayricks, 
brought the Rye to a picturesque and abrupt end. William 
spoke of Chester racecourse. 

" But it ain't nearly so big. A regular cockpit of a place is 
the Chester course ; and not every horse can get round it." 

Turning suddenly to the right, leaving the Rye behind 
them, they ascended a long, monotonous, and very ugly road 
composed of artificial little houses, each set in a portion of very 



208 ESTHER WATERS. 

metallic garden. Then they went up a long hill, at the top of 
which there were trees and a piece of waste ground. A little 
boy came running towards them. He rolled from side to side, 
stumbling over the cinder-heaps and the tin canisters with 
which the place was strewn. William felt that that child was 
his. 

"That child will break 'is blooming little neck if 'e don't 
take care," he remarked tentatively. 

She hated him to see the child, and to assert her complete 
ownership she clasped Jackie to her bosom without a word of 
explanation, ignoring William's presence. She questioned the 
child on matters about which William knew nothing. 

William stood looking tenderly on his son, waiting for 
Esther to introduce them. Mother and child were both so 
glad in each other that they forgot the fine gentleman standing 
by. Suddenly the boy looked towards his father, and she 
repented a little of her cruelty. 

"Jackie," she said, "do you know who this gentleman is 
who has come to see you ? " 

" No, I don't." 

She did not care that Jackie should love his father, and yet 
she could not help feeling sorry for William. 

" I'm your father," said William. 

" No you ain't. I ain't got no father." 

" How do you know, Jackie?" 

" Father died before I was born, mother told me." 

" But mother may be mistaken." 

"If my father hadn't died before I was born he'd 've been 
to see us before this. Come, mother, come to tea. Mrs. 
Lewis 'as got hot cakes, and they'll be burnt if we stand 
talking." 

" Yes, dear, but what the gentleman says is quite true ; he is 
your father." 

Jackie made no answer, and Esther said, " I told you your 
father was dead, but I was mistaken." 

"Won't you come and walk with me?" said William. 

" No, thank you ; I like to walk with mother." 

" He's always like that with strangers," said Esther, " it is 
shyness; but he'll come and talk to you presently, if you 
leave him alone." 

They went towards some cottages. Each had a rough piece 
of garden, and the yellow crowns of sunflowers showed over 



ESTHER WATERS. 209 

the broken palings. They stopped before a little gate and 
Mrs. Lewis's large face came into the window-pane. A 
moment after she was at the front door welcoming her visitors, 
who were coming up the three or four yards of brick pathway 
that lay between the house and the garden gate. The affection 
of her welcome was checked when she saw that William was 
with Esther. She drew aside respectfully to let this fine 
gentleman pass, and when they were in the kitchen Esther 
said — 

" This is Jackie's father." 

" What, never ! I thought — but I'm sure we're very glad to 
see you." Then, noticing the fine gold chain that hung across 
his waistcoat, the cut of his clothes, and the air of money 
which his whole bearing seemed to represent, she became a 
little obsequious in her welcome. 

"I'm sure, sir, we're very glad to see you. Won't you sit 
down ? " and dusting a chair with her apron, she handed it to 
him. Then turning to Esther, she said — 

"Sit yourself down, dear; tea'll be ready in a moment." 
She was one of .those women who, although their apron-strings 
are a good yard in length, preserve a strange agility of move- 
ment and a pleasant vivacity of speech. " I 'ope, sir, we've 
brought 'im up to your satisfaction ; we've done the best we 
could. He's a dear boy. There's been a bit of jealousy 
between us on his account, but for all that we 'aven't spoilt 
him. I don't want to praise him, but he's as well behaved a 
boy as I knows of. Maybe a bit wilful, but there ain't much 
fault to find with him, and I ought to know, for it is I that 'ad 
the bringing up of him since he was a baby of two months old. 
Jackie, dear, why don't you go to your father?" 

Jackie stood, a tall boy for his age, by his mother's chair, 
twisting his slight legs in a manner that was peculiar to him. 
His dark hair fell in thick heavy locks over his small face, and 
from under the shadow of his locks his great luminous eyes 
glanced furtively at his father. Mrs. Lewis told him to take 
his finger out of his mouth, and thus encouraged he went 
towards William, still twisting his legs and looking curiously 
dejected. He did not speak for some time, but he allowed 
William to put his arm round him and draw him against his 
knees. Then fixing his eyes on the toes of his shoes he said 
somewhat abruptly, but confidentially — 

"Are you really my father? No humbug, you know," he 

14 



210 ESTHER WATERS. 

added, raising his eyes, and for a moment looking William 
searchingly in the face. 

" I'm not humbugging, Jack. I'm your father right enough. 
Don't you like me ? But I think you said you didn't want to 
have a father ? " 

Jackie did not answer this question. After a moment's 
reflection, he said, " If you be father, why didn't you come to 
see us before?" 

William glanced at Esther, who, in her turn, glanced at 
Mrs. Lewis. 

" I'm afraid that's rather a long story, Jackie. I was away 
in foreign parts." 

Jackie looked as if he would like to hear about "foreign 
parts," and William awaited the question that seemed to 
tremble on the child's lips. But, instead, he turned suddenly 
to Mrs. Lewis and said — 

" The cakes aren't burnt, are they? I ran as fast as I could 
the moment I saw them coming." 

The childish abruptness of the transition made them laugh, 
and an unpleasant moment passed away. Mrs. Lewis took 
the plate of cakes from the fender and poured out their tea. 
The door and window were open, and the dying light lent a 
tenderness to the tea-table, to the quiet solicitude of the 
mother watching her son, knowing him in all his intimate 
habits ; to the eager curiosity of the father on the other side, 
leaning forward delighted at every look and word, thinking it 
all astonishing, wonderful. Jackie sat between the women. 
He seemed to understand that his chance of eating as many 
tea-cakes as he pleased had come, and he ate with his eyes 
fixed on the plate, considering which piece he would have 
when he had finished the piece he had in his hand. Very 
little was said — a few remarks about the fine weather, and 
offers to put out another cup of tea. Very gradually Mrs. 
Lewis began to understand that they had differences to settle, 
and that she had better leave them. She put on her bonnet 
and took her shawl from the peg. She pleaded that she had 
an appointment with a neighbour ; she wouldn't be more than 
half-an-hour ; would they look after the house till her return ? 
William watched her, thinking of what he would say when she 
was out of hearing. 

" That boy of ours is a dear little fellow ; you've been a 
good mother, I can see that. If I had only known." 



ESTHER WATERS. 211 

" There's no use talking no more about it ; what's done is 
done." 

The cottage door was open and they could see their child 
swinging on the gate. The evening was very still, and the 
passers-by came and went like shadows. The eyes of both 
father and mother were fixed on the swinging figure. Neither 
knew exactly what to say, and both were burdened with the 
responsibility with which they felt the moment was pregnant. 
At last William said — 

" There ain't much meaning in marriage if you don't have 
no children." 

" Did your wife have no children ? " 

" Not she. I didn't think I cared about children until you 
said there was a child. I don't think I felt as much even 
when I saw Field-Marshal struggling home a winner by 'alf a 
length. I had forty to one about him, and had stood it all 
out to win and a place, hadn't hedged a penny of it. But 
when you told me there was a child, the words sent a 
thrill through me, and I walked away confused like, and I 
ain't thought of much else ever since." 

" I reared the child, and I saw him growing, and he's fond 
of me, and I'd lay down my life for him ; but I don't see why 
you,, who never saw him before, should care that much about 
him." 

" Well, you see, it comes fresh upon me I imagine it all, 
and in my own way I suppose I care much more about the 
boy than even you do. Lord! if I 'ad known about him 
before, I'd 'ave left my wife long ago." 

"That would 've been very wrong. I hope you'll soon 
go back to her." 

" Go back to her ! She's living with another man." 

" You don't know that she is for certain ? " 

"I don't know nothing for certain. I haven't troubled to 
find out; but it's rather 'ard to 'ear you say that you hope 
I shall go back and live with her. Do you mean that you 
don't want no more to do with me ? " 

" I don't want to have nothing to do with married men." 

" I can get a divorce." 

" You'd much better go back to your wife. Once married, 
always married, that's my way of thinking." 

" I'm sorry to hear you say it, Esther. Do you think a man 
should stop with his wife who's been treated as I have been ? " 



212 ESTHER WATERS. 

Esther avoided a direct reply, and the infidelity of men 
and the constancy of women were argued, until William 
remembered that Mrs. Lewis had said she would be back 
in half-an-hour. 

" We ain't getting no for'arder by discussing them things," 
he said, interrupting her. " We can't say good-bye after this 
evening and never see one another again." 

" Why not ? I'm nothing to you now, you've got a wife 
of your own; you've no claim upon me, you can go your 
way and I can keep to mine." 

" There's that child, I must do something for him." 

"Well, you can do something for him without ruining me." 

" Ruining you, Esther." 

" Yes, ruining me. I ain't going to lose my character by 
keeping company with a married man. You've done me harm 
enough already and should be ashamed to think of doing 
me any more. You can pay for the boy's schooling if you 
like, you can pay for his keep too, but you mustn't think 
that in doing so you'll get hold of me again." 

"Do you mean it, Esther?" 

" Followers ain't allowed where I am. You're a married 
man, I won't 'ave it." 

" But when I get my divorce ? " 

" When you get your divorce ! I don't know how it'll be 
then. But here's Mrs. Lewis ; she's a-scolding of Jackie for 
swinging on that 'ere gate. Naughty boy; he's been told twenty 
times not to swing on the gate. I must be getting home." 

Esther complained that they had stayed too long, that 
he had made her late. She treated his questions about 
Jackie with indifference. He might write if he had any- 
thing important to say, but she could not keep company 
with a married man. They shook hands and parted at the 
area gate. William seemed very downcast. Esther, too, was 
unhappy, and she did not know why. She had succeeded as 
well as she had expected, but success had not brought that 
sense of satisfaction which she had expected it would. Her 
idea had been to keep William out of the way and hurry 
on her marriage with Fred. But this marriage, once so 
ardently desired, no longer gave, her any pleasure. She was 
full of doubt. She had told Fred about the child. He 
had forgiven her. But now she remembered that men were 
very forgiving before marriage, but how did she know that he 



ESTHER WATERS. 213 

would not reproach her with her fault the first time they came 
to disagree about anything? Ah, it was all misfortune. She 
had no luck. She didn't want to marry any one. 

That visit to Dulwich had thoroughly upset her. She ought 
to have kept out of William's way; that man seemed to have a 
power over her ; and she hated him for it. What did he want 
to see the child for ? The child was nothing to him. She had 
been a fool; now he'd be after the child; and through this 
fever of trouble there raged an acute desire to know what 
Jackie thought of his father, what Mrs. Lewis thought of 
William. 

At last the desire to know what was happening became 
intolerable, and she went to her mistress to ask for leave 
to go out. Very little of her agitation betrayed itself in 
her demeanour, but Miss Rice's sharp eyes had guessed that 
her servant's life was at a crisis. She laid her book on her 
knee, asked a few kind, discreet questions, and after dinner 
Esther hurried towards the Underground. 

The door of the cottage was open, and as she crossed the 
little garden she heard Mrs. Lewis say — 

" Now you must be a good boy, and not go out in the garden 
and spoil your new clothes." And when she entered Mrs. 
Lewis was giving the finishing touches to the necktie which she 
had just tied. " Now you'll go and sit on that chair, like a 
good boy, and wait there till your father comes." 

" Oh, here's mummie," cried the boy, and he darted out of 
Mrs. Lewis's hand. " Look at my new clothes, mummie ; look 
at them ! " And Esther saw her boy dressed in a suit of 
velveteen knickerbockers with brass buttons, and a sky-blue 
necktie. 

" His father — I mean Mr. Latch — came here on Thursday 
morning, and took him to " 

"Took me up to London " 

" And brought him back in those clothes." 

" We went to such a big shop in Oxford Street for them, 
and they took down many suits before they could get one 
to fit. Father is that difficult to please, and I thought we 
should go away without any clothes, and I couldn't walk 
about London with father in those old things. Aren't they 
shabby?" he added, kicking them contemptuously. It was 
a little grey suit that Esther had made for him with her own 
hands. 



214 ESTHER WATERS. 

" Father had me measured for another suit, but it won't 
be ready for a few days. Father took me to the Zoological 
Gardens, and we saw the lions and tigers, and there are such a 

lot of monkeys. There is one But what makes you look 

so cross, mummie dear ? Don't you ever go out with father in 
London ? London is such a beautiful place. And then we 
walked through the park and saw a lot of boys sailing boats. 
Father asked me if I had a boat. I said you couldn't afford 
to buy me toys. He said that was hard lines on me, and on 
the way back to the station we stopped at a toy shop and he 
bought me a boat. May I show you my boat ? " 

Jackie was too much occupied with thoughts of his boat to 
notice the gloom that was gathering on his mother's face ; Mrs. 
Lewis wished to call upon him to desist, but before she could 
make up her mind what to do, he had brought the toy from 
the table and was forcing it into his mother's hands. " This 
is a cutter-rigged boat, because it has three sails and only one 
mast. Father told me it was. He'll be here in half-an-hour ; 
we're going to sail the boat in the pond on the Rye, and if it 
gets across all right, he'll take me to the park where there's a 
big piece of water, twice, three times as big as the water on the 
Rye. Do you think, mummie, that I shall ever be able to get 

my boat across such a piece of water as the I've forgotten 

the name. What do they call it, mummie ? " 

" Oh, I don't know ; don't bother me with your boat." 

" Oh, mummie, what have I done that you won't look at my 
boat ? Aren't you coming with father to the Rye to see me 
sail it?" - 

" I don't want to go with you. You want me no more. I 
can't afford to give you boats. . . . Come, don't plague me 
any more with your toy," she said, pushing it away, and then 
in a moment of convulsive passion she threw the boat across 
the room. It struck the opposite wall, its mast was broken, 
and the sails and cords made a tangled little heap. Jackie ran 
to his toy, he picked it up, and his face showed his grief. " I 
shan't be able to sail my boat now ; it won't sail, its mast and 
the sails is broke. Mummie, what did you break my boat 
for ? " and the child burst into tears. At that moment William 
entered. 

"What is the child crying for?" he asked, stopping abruptly 
on the threshold. There was a slight note of authority in his 
voice which angered Esther still more. 



ESTHER WATERS. 21 5 

" What is it to you what he is crying for ? " she said, turning 
quickly round. " What has the child got to do with you that 
you should come down ordering people about for? A nice 
sort of mean trick, and one that is just like you. You beg 
and pray of me to let you see the child, and when I do you 
come down here on the sly, and with the present of a suit of 
clothes and a toy boat you try to win his love away from his 
mother." 

" Esther, Esther, I never thought of getting his love from 
you. I meant no harm. Mrs. Lewis said that he was looking 
a trifle moped ; we thought that a change would do him good, 
and so " 

" Ah ! it was Mrs. Lewis that asked you to take him up to 
London. It is a strange thing what a little money will do. 
Ever since you set foot in this cottage she has been curtseying 
to you, handing you chairs. I didn't much like it, but I didn't 
think that she would round on me in this way." Then turning 
suddenly on her old friend, she said : " Who told you to let 
him have the child ? ... Is it he or I who pays you for his 
keep ? Answer me that How much did he give you — a new 
dress ? " 

" Oh, Esther, I am surprised at you ; I didn't think it would 
come to accusing me of being bribed, and after all these years." 
Mrs. Lewis put her apron to her eyes, and Jackie stole over to 
his father. 

" It wasn't I who smashed the boat ; it was mummie ; she's 
in a passion. I don't know why she smashed it. I didn't do 
nothing." 

William took the child on his knee. 

" She didn't mean to smash it. There's a good boy, don't 
cry no more." 

Jackie looked at his father. " Will you buy me another ? 
The shops aren't open to-day." Then getting off his father's 
knee he picked up the toy, and coming back he said, " Could 
we mend the boat somehow ? Do you think we could ? " 

"Jackie, dear, go away; leave your father alone. Go into 
the next room," said Mrs. Lewis. 

"No, he can stop here ; let him be," said Esther. " I want to 
have no more to say to him, he can look to his father for the 
future." Esther turned on her heel and walked straight for the 
door. But dropping his boat with a cry, the little fellow ran 
after her and clung to her skirt despairingly. " No, mummie 



2l6 ESTHER WATERS. 

dear, you mustn't go ; never mind the boat ; I love you better 
than the boat — I'll do without a boat" 

" Esther, Esther, this is all nonsense. Just listen." 

" No, I won't listen to you. But you shall listen to me. 
When I brought you here last week you asked me in the train 
what I had been doing all these years. I didn't answer you, 
but I will now. I've been in the workhouse." 

" In the workhouse ! " 

" Yes, do that surprise you ? " 

Then jerking out her words, throwing them at him as if they 
were half-bricks, she told him the story of the last eight years 
— Queen Charlotte's hospital, Mrs. Rivers, Mrs. Spires, the 
night on the Embankment, and the workhouse. 

"And when I came out of the workhouse I travelled 
London in search of £16 a. year wages, which was the 
least I could do with, and when I didn't find them I sat 
here and eat dry bread. She'll tell you — she saw it all. I 
haven't said nothing about the shame and the sneers I had 
to put up with — you would understand nothing about that 
— and there was more than one situation I was thrown out 
of when they found I had a child. For they didn't like loose 
women in their houses ; I had them very words said about me. 
And while I was going through all that you was living in riches 
with a lady in foreign parts ; and now when she could put up 
with you no longer, and you're kicked out, you come to me 
and ask for your share of the child. Share of the child! 
What share is yours, I'd like to know ? " 

" Esther ! " 

" In your mean, underhand way you come here on the sly 
to see if you can't steal the love of the child from me." 

She could speak no more; her strength was giving way 
before the tumult of her passion, and the silence that had 
come suddenly into the room was more terrible than her 
violent words. William stood quaking, horrified, wishing 
the earth would swallow him ; Mrs. Lewis watched Esther's 
pale face, fearing that she would faint ; Jackie, his grey eyes 
open round, held his broken boat still in his hand. The sense 
of the scene had hardly caught on his childish brain ; he was 
very frightened ; his tears and sobs were a welcome intervention. 
Mrs. Lewis took him in her arms and tried to soothe him. 
William tried to speak ; his lips moved, but no words came. 

Mrs. Lewis whispered, "You'll get no good out of her now, 



ESTHER WATERS. 217 

her temper's up ; you'd better go. She don't know what she's 
a-saying of." 

"If one of us has to go," said William, taking the hint, 
" there can't be much doubt which of us." He stood at the 
door holding his hat, just as if he were going to put it on. 
Esther stood with her back turned to him. At last he said — 

" Good-bye, Jackie. I suppose you don't want to see me 
again ? " 

For reply Jackie threw his boat away and clung to Mrs. 
Lewis for protection. William's face showed that he was 
pained by Jackie's refusal. 

"Try to get your mother to forgive me ; but you are right to 
love her best. She's been a good mother to you." He put on 
his hat and went without another word. No one spoke, and 
every moment the silence grew more paralysing. Jackie 
examined his broken boat for a moment, and then he put 
it away, as if it had ceased to have any interest for him. He 
picked up his old clothes and took them into the next room. 
There was no chance of going to the Rye that day ; he might 
as well take off his velvet suit ; besides, his mother liked him 
better in his old clothes. He left the room and changed his 
clothes, and when his mother saw what he had done her heart 
went out to him, and she grew sorry for having broken his 
boat,- and appreciated the cruelty of her action. " You shall 
have another boat, my darling," she said, leaning across the 
table and looking at him affectionately ; " and quite as good 
as the one I broke." 

"Will you, mummie? One with three sails, cutter-rigged, 
like that?" 

" Yes, dear, you shall have a boat with three sails." 

" When will you buy me the boat, mummie — to-morrow ? " 

"As soon as I can, Jackie." 

This promise appeared to satisfy him. Suddenly he 
looked — 

" Is father coming back no more ? " 

" Do you want him back ? " 

Jackie hesitated ; his mother pressed him for an answer. 

"Not if you don't, mummie." 

" But if he was to give you another boat, one with four sails ? " 

" They don't have four sails, not them with one mast." 

" If he was to give you a boat with two masts, would you 
take it?" 



2l8 ESTHER WATERS. 

" I should try not to, I should try ever so hard." 

There were tears in Jackie's voice, and then, as if doubtful 
of his power to resist temptation, he buried his face in his 
mother's bosom and sobbed bitterly. 

"You shall have another boat, my darling." 

" I don't want no boat at all ! I love you better than a 
boat, mummie, indeed I do." 

"And what about those clothes? You'd sooner stop with 
me and wear those shabby clothes than go to him and wear a 
pretty velvet suit ? " 

"You can send back the velvet suit.'' 

" Can I ? My darling, mummie will give you another velvet 
suit," and she embraced the child with all her strength, and 
covered him with kisses. 

" But why can't I wear that velvet suit, and why can't father 
come back ? Why don't you like father ? You shouldn't be 
cross with father because he gave me the boat. He didn't 
mean no harm." 

"I think you like your father. You like him better than 
me." 

"Not better than you, mummie." 

"You wouldn't like to have any other father except your 
own real father ? " 

"How could I have a father that wasn't my own real 
father ? " 

Esther did not press the point, and soon after Jackie began 
to talk about the possibility of mending his boat ; and feeling 
that something irrevocable had happened, Esther put on her 
hat and jacket, and Mrs. Lewis and Jackie accompanied her to 
the station. They kissed each other on the platform and were 
reconciled, but there was a vague sensation of sadness in the 
leave-taking which they could not understand. Jackie and 
Mrs. Lewis returned home in silence, and Esther sat alone in 
a third-class carriage absorbed in consideration of the problem 
of her life. The life she had dreamed would never be hers — 
somehow she seemed to know that she would never be Fred's 
wife. 

Everything seemed to point to the inevitableness of this end. 

She had determined to see William no more, but he wrote 
asking how she would like him to contribute towards the 
maintenance of the child. The matter could not be settled 
without personal interviews ; and both Miss Rice and Mrs. 



ESTHER WATERS. 219 

Lewis seemed to take it for granted that she would marry 
William when he obtained his divorce. He was applying himself 
to the solution of this difficulty and professed himself to be 
perfectly satisfied with the course that events were taking. 
And whenever she saw Jackie he inquired after his father ; he 
hoped, too, that she had forgiven poor father, who had never 
meant no harm at all. She saw now that her instinct was 
right in warning her not to let the child see William, that she 
had done wrong in allowing her feelings to be overruled by 
Miss Rice, who had, of course, advised her for the best. But 
it was clear to her now that Jackie never would take kindly to 
Fred as a stepfather ; that he would never forgive her if she 
divided him from his real father by marrying another man. 
He would grow to dislike his stepfather more and more ; and 
when he grew older he would keep away from the house on 
account of the presence of his stepfather ; it would end by his 
going to live with him ; he would be led into a life of betting 
and drinking; she would lose her child if she married 
Fred. 



220 ESTHER WATERS. 



XXVII. 

It was one evening as she was putting things away in the 
kitchen before going up to bed. She heard some one rap at 
the window. Could this be Fred? Her heart was beating; 
she must let him in. The area was in darkness ; she could 
see no one. 

11 Who is there ? " she cried. 

" It's only me. I had to see you to-night on " 

She drew an easier breath, and asked him to come in. 

William had expected a rougher reception. The tone in 
which Esther invited him in was almost genial, and there was 
no need of so many excuses ; but he had come prepared with 
excuses, and a few ran off his tongue before he was aware. . 

"Well," said Esther, " it is rather late. I was just going up 
to bed; but you can tell me what you've come about, if it 
won't take long." 

" It won't take long. . . . I've seen my solicitor this after- 
noon, and he says that I shall find it very difficult to get a 
divorce." 

" So you can't get your divorce ? " 

"Are you glad?" 

" I don't know." 

"What do you mean ? You must be either glad or sorry." 

"I said what I mean. I am not given to telling lies." 
Esther set the large tin candlestick, on which a wick was 
spluttering, on the kitchen table. William looked at her 
inquiringly. She was always a bit of a mystery to him. And 
then he told her, speaking very quickly, how he had neglected 
to secure proofs of his wife's infidelity at the time ; and as she 
had lived a circumspect although no doubt a guilty life ever 
since, the solicitor thought that it would be difficult to establish 
a case against her. 

" Perhaps she never was guilty," said Esther, unable to 
resist the temptation to irritate. 



ESTHER WATERS. 221 

" Not guilty ! what do you mean ? Haven't I told you how 
I found them the day I came up from Ascot. . . . And didn't 
she own up to it. What more proof do you want? " 

"Anyway it appears you haven't enough; what are you going 
to do ? Wait until you catch her out ? " 

" There is nothing else to do, unless y William paused, 

and his eyes wandered from Esther's. 

" Unless what ? " 

" Well, you see my solicitors have been in communication 
with her solicitors, and her solicitors say that if it were the 
other way round, that if I gave her reason to go against me 
for a divorce, that she would be glad of the chance. That's all 
they said at first, but since then I've seen my wife, and she 
says that if I'll give her cause to get a divorce she'll not only 
go for it, but will pay all the legal expenses ; it won't cost us a 
penny. What do you think, Esther ? " 

" I don't know that I understand. You don't mean " 

" You see, Esther, that to get a divorce — there's no one who 
can hear us, is there ? " 

" No, there's no one in the 'ouse except me and the missus, 
and she's in her study, reading. Go on." 

" It seems that one of the parties must go and live with 
another party before either can get a divorce. Do you under- 
stand?" 

11 You don't mean that you want me to go and live with you, 
and perhaps get left a second time ? " 

" That's all rot, Esther, and you knows it." 

"If that's all you've got to say to me you'd better take your 
hook." 

"Do you see, there's the child to consider, and you 
know well enough, Esther, that you've nothing to fear; you 
knows as well as can be that I mean to run straight this time. 
So I did before. But let bygones be bygones, and I know 
you'd like the child to have a father; so, if only for his 
sake " 

" For his sake ! I like that, as if I hadn't done enough for 
him. Haven't I worked and slaved myself to death and gone 
about in rags? That's what that child has cost me. Tell me 
what he's cost you. Not a penny piece — a toy boat and a suit 
of velvet knickerbockers — and yet you come telling me — I'd 
like to know what's expected of me. Is a woman never to 
think of herself ? Do I count for nothing? For the child's 



222 ESTHER WATERS. 

sake, indeed ! Now, if it was any one else but you. Just tell 
me, where do I come in ? That's what I want to know. I've 
played the game long enough. Where do I come in ? That's 
what I want to know." 

"There's no use flying in a passion, Esther. I know you've had 
a hard time. I know it was all very unlucky from the very first. 
But there's no use saying that you might get left a second 
time, for you know well enough that that ain't true. Say you 
won't do it ; you're a free woman, you can act as you please. 
It would be unjust to ask you to give up anything more for the 
child ; I agree with you in all that. But don't fly in a rage 
with me because I came to tell you that there was no other 
way out of the difficulty." 

" You can go and live with another woman, and get a divorce 
that way." 

" Yes, I can do that ; but I first thought I'd speak to you on 
the subject. For if I did go and live with another woman 
I couldn't very well desert her after getting the divorce." 

" You deserted me." 

" Why go back on that old story ? " 

" It ain't an old story, it's the story of my life, and I haven't 
come to the end of it yet." 

"But you'll have got to the end of it if you'll do what I say." 

A moment after Esther said — 

" I don't know what you want to get a divorce for at all. I 
daresay your wife would take you back if you were to ask 
her." 

" She's no children, and never will have none ; and marriage 
is a poor look-out without children — all the worry and anxiety 
for nothing. What do we marry for but children ? There's 
no other happiness. I've tried everything else " 

"But I haven't." 

" I know all that ; I know you've had a damned hard time, 
Esther. I've had a good week at Doncaster, and have 
enough money to buy my partner out; we shall 'ave the 
'ouse to ourselves, and, working together, I don't think we'll 
'ave much difficulty in building it up into a very nice 
property, all of which will in time go to the boy. I'm doing 
pretty well, I told you, in the betting line, but if you like I'll 
give it up. I'll never lay or take the odds again. I can't say 
more, Esther, can I? Come, Esther, say yes. Come, say 
yes," he said, reaching his arm towards her. 



ESTHER WATERS. 223 

" Don't touch me," she said surlily, and drew back a step 
with an air of resolution that made him doubt if he would be 
able to persuade her. 

"Now, Esther " William did not finish. It seemed use- 
less to argue with her, and he looked at the great red ash of the 
tallow candle. Neither spoke ; at last William said — 

" You are the mother of my boy, so it is different ; but to 
advise me to go and live with another woman ! I shouldn't 
have thought it of a religious girl like you." 

" Religion ! There's very little time for religion in the places 
I've had to work in." Then, thinking of Fred, she added that 
she had returned to Christ, and hoped He would forgive her. 
William encouraged her to speak of herself, remarking that, 
chapel or no chapel, she seemed just as severe and particular 
as ever. " If you won't, I can only say I am sorry ; but that 
shan't prevent me from paying you as much a week as you think 
necessary for Jack's keep and his schooling. I don't want the 
boy to cost you anything. I'd like to do a great deal more for 
the boy, but I can't do more unless you make him my child." 

"And I can only do that by going away to live with you?" 
The words brought an instinctive look of desire into her eyes. 

" In six months we shall be man and wife. . . . Say yes." 

"I can't. ... I can't, don't ask me." 

"You're afraid to trust me, is that it ? " 

Esther did not answer. 

"I can make that all right; I'll settle ^500 on you and the 
child." 

She looked up; the same look was in her eyes, only 
modified, softened by some feeling of tenderness which had 
come into her heart. 

He put his arm round her; she was leaning against the 
table ; he was sitting on the edge. 

"You know that I mean to act rightly by you." 

"Yes, I think you do." 

" Then say yes." 

"I can't— it is too late." 

" There's another chap ? ; ' 

She nodded. 

" I thought as much. Do you care for him ? " 

She did not answer. 

He drew her closer to him ; she did not resist ; he could see 
that she was weeping. He kissed her on her neck first, and 



224 ESTHER WATERS. 

then on her face ; and he continued to ask her if she loved 
the other chap. At last she signified that she did not. 

" Then say yes." She murmured that she could not. " You 
can, you can, you can." He kissed her, all the while reiterating 
" You can, you can, you can," until it became a sort of parrot 
cry. Several minutes elapsed, and the candle began to splutter 
in its socket. She said — 

" Let me go ; let me light the gas." 

As she sought for the matches she caught sight of the clock. 

" I did not know it was so late." 

"Say yes before I go." 

" I can't." 

And it was impossible to extort a promise from her. " I'm 
too tired," she said, " let me go." 

He took her in his arms and kissed her, and said, " My 
own little wife." 

As he went up the area steps she remembered that he had 
used the same words before. She tried to think of Fred, but 
William's great square shoulders had come between her and 
this meagre little man. She sighed, and felt once again that 
her will was overborne by a force which she could not control 
or understand 



ESTHER WATERS. 22$ 



XXVIII. 

Esther went round the house bolting and locking the doors, 
seeing that everything was made fast for the night. When she 
had finished, painful thoughts came upon her ; she paused at 
the foot of the stairs and drew her hand across her eyes. She 
was whelmed in a sense of sorrow, of purely mental misery, 
which she could not understand, and which she had not strength 
to grapple with. She was, however, conscious of the fact that 
life was proving too strong for her, that she could make nothing 
of it, and she thought that she did not care much what happened. 
She had fought with adverse fate and had conquered in a way; 
she had won countless victories over herself, and now found 
herself without the necessary strength for the last battle ; she 
had not even strength for blame, and merely wondered why 
she had let William kiss her. She remembered how she had 
hated him, and now she hated him no longer. She ought not 
to have spoken to him ; above all, she ought not to have 
taken him to see the child. But how could she help it ? 

She went upstairs. 

She slept on the same landing as Miss Rice (that dear 
little woman sleeping so calmly in her quiet bed), and was 
moved by a sudden impulse to go in and tell her the story 
of her trouble. But what good? No one could help her. 
She liked Fred; they seemed to suit each other, and she could 
have made him a good wife if she had not met William. It 
was Fred she wanted. She imagined the cottage at Mortlake, 
and their lives in it ; and she sought to stimulate her liking for 
him with thoughts of the meeting-house ; she thought even of 
the simple black dress she would wear, and that life seemed 
so natural to her that she did not understand why she 
hesitated. ... If she were to marry William she would go to 
the "King's Head." She would stand behind the bar; she 
would serve the customers. She had never seen much life, 
and felt somehow that she would like to see a little life; 

15 



226 Esther waters. 

there would not be much life in the cottage at Mortlake; 
nothing but the prayer-meeting. She stopped thinking, 
surprised at her thoughts. She had never thought like that 
before ; it seemed as if some other woman whom she hardly 
knew was thinking for her. Did she want to marry William 
and go to the " King's Head " ? She didn't know. She 
seemed like one standing at cross-roads unable to decide 
which road she would take. If she took the road leading 
to the cottage and the prayer-meeting her life would hence- 
forth be secure. She could see her life from end to end, 
even to the time when Fred would come and sit by her and 
hold her hand as she had seen his father and mother sitting 
side by side. If she took the road to the public-house and 
the race-course she did not know what might not happen. But 
William had promised to settle ^500 on her and the baby. 
Her life would be secure either way. 

She must marry Fred ; she had promised to marry him ; 
she wished to be a good woman; he would give her the life 
she was most fitted for, the life she had always desired; the 
life of her father and mother, the life of her childhood. She 
would marry Fred, only — something at that moment seemed 
to take her by the throat. William had come between her and 
that life. If she had not met him at Woodview long ago; if 
she had not met him in the Pembroke Road that night she 
went to fetch the beer for her mistress's dinner, how different 
everything would have been ! ... If she had met him only a 
few months later when she was Fred's wife ! 

She lay in bed weary with arguing with herself, wishing 
that the matter could be decided for her; wishing that 
she might go to sleep, and awake the wife of one or 
the other. As she fell asleep she felt that her life 
must be all one thing or all the other; and she did not 
feel herself to be equal to either course. She felt that she 
would prefer a middle course; and as film after film of sleep 
fell upon her brain the miracle was achieved. She dreamed of 
a husband possessed of the qualities of both, and a life that 
was neither all chapel nor all public-house. But such illu- 
sion could not last; soon the faces separated, the grotesque 
followed the ideal, and Esther awoke in terror, believing she 
had married them both. 



ESTHER WATERS. 227 



XXIX. 

If Fred had said, " Come away with me," Esther would have 
obeyed the elemental romanticism which is so fixed a principle 
in woman's nature. But when she called at the shop he only 
spoke of his holiday, of the long walks he had taken, and the 
religious and political meetings he had attended. Esther 
listened vaguely; and there was in her mind unconscious 
regret that he was not a little different. Little irrelevant 
thoughts came upon her. She would like him better if he 
wore coloured neckties and a short jacket ; she wished half of 
him away — his dowdiness, his sandy-coloured hair, the vague 
eyes, the black neckties, the long loose frock-coat. But his 
voice was keen and ringing, and when listening her heart 
always went out to him, and she felt that she might fearlessly 
entrust her life to him. But he did not seem to wholly under- 
stand her, and day by day, against her will, the thought 
gripped her more and more closely and strongly that she 
could not separate Jackie from his father. She would have 
to tell Fred the whole truth. He would not understand it, 
that she knew, and would never think the same of her again. 
But it would have to be done, and she sent round to say 
she'd like to see him when he left business. Would he step 
round about eight o'clock ? 

The clock had hardly struck eight when she heard a tap at 
the window. She opened the door and he came in, surprised 
by the silence with which she received him. 

" I hope nothing has happened. Is anything the matter ? " 

" Yes, a great deal's the matter. I'm afraid we shall never 
be married, Fred, that's what's the matter." 

"How's that, Esther? What can prevent us getting mar- 
ried?" She did not answer, and then he said, "You've not 
ceased to care for me ? " 

" No, that's not it." 



228 ESTHER WATERS. 

" Jackie's father has come back ? " 

" You've hit it, that's what happened." 

" I'm sorry that man has come across you again. I thought 
you told me he was married. But, Esther, don't keep me in 
suspense, what has he done ? " 

" Sit down ; don't stand staring at me in that way, and I'll 
tell you the story." 

Then in a strained voice, in which there was genuine suffer- 
ing, Esther told her story, laying special stress on the fact that 
she had done her best to prevent him from seeing the child. 

" I don't see how you could have forbidden him access to 
the child." 

He often used words that Esther did not understand, but 
guessing his meaning, she answered — 

"That's just what the missus said; she argued me into 
taking him to see the child. I knew once he'd seen Jackie 
there'd be no getting rid of him. I shall never get rid of him 
again." 

" He's no claim upon you. It is just like him, low black- 
guard fellow that he is, to come after you, persecuting you. 
But don't you fear ; you leave him to me. I'll find a way of 
stopping his little game." 

Esther looked at his frail figure. 

" You can do nothing ; no one can do nothing," she said,, 
and the tears trembled in her handsome eyes. " He wants 
me to go away and live with him, so that his wife may be able 
to divorce him." 

" Wants you to go away and live with him ! But surely,. 
Esther, you do not " 

" Yes, he wants me to go and live with him, so that his wife- 
can get a divorce," Esther answered, for the suspense irritated 
her ; " and how can I refuse to go with him ? " 

" Esther, are you serious ? You cannot You told me 

that you did not love him, and after all " He waited for 

Esther to speak. 

" Yes," she said very quickly, " there is no way out of it 
that I can see." 

"Esther, that man has tempted you, and you have not 
prayed." 

She did not answer. 

" I don't want to hear more of this," he said, catching up 
his hat. " I shouldn't have believed it if I had not heard it 



ESTHER WATERS. 229 

from your lips ; no, not if the whole world had told me. You 
are in love with this man, though you may not know it, and 
you've invented this story as a pretext to throw me over. 
Good-bye, Esther." 

11 Fred, dear, listen, hear me out. You'll not go away in 
that hasty way. You're the only friend I have. Let me 
explain." 

" Explain ! how can such things be explained ? " 

" That's what I thought until all this happened to me. I 
have suffered dreadful in the last few days. I've wept bitter 
tears, and I thought of all you said about the 'ome you was 
going to give me." Her sincerity was unmistakable, and Fred 
doubted her no longer. " I'm very fond of you, Fred, and if 
things had been different I think I might have made you a 
good wife. But it wasn't to be." 

" Esther, I don't understand. You need never see this man 
again if you don't wish it." 

" Nay, nay, things ain't so easily changed as all that. He's 
the father of my child, he's got money, and he'll leave his 
money to his child if he's made Jackie's father in the eyes of 
the law." 

" That can be done without your going to live with him." 

"Not as he wants. I know what he wants; he wants a 
'ome, and he won't be put off with less." 

" How men can be so wicked as " 

"No, you do him wrong. He ain't no more wicked than 
another ; he's just one of the ordinary sort — not much better 
or worse. If he'd been a real bad lot it would have been 
better for us, for then he'd never have come between us. 
You're beginning to understand, Fred, ain't you ? If I don't 
go with him my boy '11 lose everything. He wants a 'ome — a 
real 'ome with children, and if he can't get me he'll go after 
another woman." 

" And are you jealous ? " 

" No, Fred. But think if we was to marry. As like as not 
I should have children, and they'd be more in your sight than 
my boy." 

" Esther, I promise that " 

" Just so, Fred ; even if you loved him like your own, you 
can't make sure that he'd love you." 

" Jackie and I " 

" Ah, yes ; he'd have liked you well enough if he'd never 



230 ESTHER WATERS. 

seen his father. But he's that keen on his father, and it would 
be worse later on. He'd never be contented in our 'ome. 
He'd be always after him, and then I should never see him, 
and he would be led away into betting and drink." 

" If his father is that sort of man, the best chance for Jackie 
would be to keep him out of his way. If he gets divorced and 
marries another woman he will forget all about Jackie." 

"Yes, that might be," said Esther, and Fred pursued his 
advantage. But interrupting him Esther said — 

"Anyway, Jackie would lose all his father's money; the 
public-house would " 

" So you're going to live in a public-house, Esther ? " 

" A woman must be with her husband." 

"But he's not your husband; he's another woman's 
husband." 

" He's to marry me when he gets his divorce." 

" He may desert you and leave you with another child." 

" You can't say nothing that I ain't thought of already. I 
must put up with the risk. I suppose it is part of the punish- 
ment for the first sin. We can't go wrong without being 
punished — at least women can't. But I thought I'd been 
punished enough." 

" The second sin is worse than the first. A married man, 
Esther — you who I thought so religious." 

"Ah, religion is easy enough at times, but there is other 
times when it don't seem to fit in with one's duty. I may be 
wrong, but it seems natural like — he's the father of my child." 

" I'm afraid your mind is made up, Esther. Think twice 
before it's too late." 

"Fred, I can't help myself — can't you see that? Don't 
make it harder for me by talking like that." 

" When are you going to him ? " 

" To-night ; he's waiting for me." 

" Then good-bye, Esther, good " 

" But you'll come and see us." 

" I hope you'll be happy, Esther, but I don't think we shall 
see much more of each other. You know that I do not 
frequent public-houses." 

"Yes, I know; but you might come and see me in the 
morning when we're doing no business." 

Fred smiled sadly. 

" Then you won't come ? " she said. 



ESTHER WATERS. 23 I 

" Good-bye, Esther." 

They shook hands, and he went out hurriedly. She waited 
a moment, dashed a tear from her eyes, and went upstairs to 
her mistress. 

Miss Rice was in her easy-chair, reading by the light of the 
evening sky. A long, slanting ray entered the room ; the bead 
curtain glittered, and so peaceful was the impression that 
Esther could not but perceive the contrast between her own 
troublous life and the contented privacy of this slender little 
spinster's. 

" Well, Miss," she said, " it's all over. I've told him." 

" Have you, Esther ? " said Miss Rice. Her white, delicate 
hands fell over the closed volume. She wore two little colour- 
less rings and a ruby ring which caught the light. 

" Yes, Miss, I've told him all. He seemed a good deal cut 
up. I couldn't help crying myself, for I could have made him 
a good wife — I'm sure I could ; but it wasn't to be." 

" You've told him you were going off to live with William ? " 

"Yes, Miss; there's nothing like telling the whole truth 
while you're about it. I told him I was going off to-night." 

" He's a very religious young man ? " 

" Yes, Miss ; he spoke to me about religion, but I told him 
I didn't want Jackie to be a fatherless boy, and to lose any 
money he might have a right to. It don't look right to go 
and live with a married man ; but you knows, Miss, how I'm 
situated, and you knows that I'm only doing it because it 
seems for the best." 

" What did he say to that ? " 

" Nothing much, Miss, except that I might get left a second 
time — and, he wasn't slow to add, with another child." 

" Have you thought of that danger, Esther ? " 

" Yes, Miss, I've thought of everything ; but thinking don't 
change nothing. Things remain just the same, and you've to 
chance it in the end — leastways a woman has. Not on the 
likes of you, Miss, but the likes of us." 

" Yes," said Miss Rice reflectively, " it is always the woman 
who is sacrificed." And her thought went back for a moment 
to the novel she was writing. It seemed to her pale and con- 
ventional compared with this rough page torn out of life. She 
wondered if she could treat the subject. She passed in review 
the names of some writers who could do justice to it, and then 
her eyes went from her bookcase to Esther, 



232 ESTHER WATERS. 

" So you're going to live in a public-house, Esther ? You're 
going to-night ? I've paid you everything I owe you ? " 

" Yes, Miss, you have ; you've been very kind to me, indeed 
you have, Miss — I shall never forget you, Miss. I've been 
very happy in your service, and should like nothing better than 
to remain on with you." 

" All I can say, Esther, is that you have been a very good 
servant and I'm very sorry to part with you. And I hope 
you'll remember if things do not turn out as well as you expect 
them to, that I shall always be glad to do anything in my 
power to help you. You'll always find a friend in me. When 
are you going ? " 

11 As soon as my box is packed, Miss, and I shall have about 
finished by the time the new servant comes in. She's expected 
at nine; there she is, Miss — that's the area bell. Good-bye, 
Miss." 

Miss Rice involuntarily held out her hand. Esther took it, 
and thus encouraged she said — 

"There never was any one that clear-headed and warm- 
hearted as yerself, miss. I may have a lot of trouble, Miss. . . . 
If I wasn't yer servant, I'd like to kiss you." 

Miss Rice did not answer, and, before she was aware, Esther 
had taken her in her arms and kissed her. "You're not angry 
with me, Miss ; I couldn't help myself." 

"No, Esther, I'm not angry." 

"I must go now and let her in." 

Miss Rice walked towards her writing-table, and a sense 
of the solitude of her life coming upon her suddenly caused 
her to burst into tears. It was one of those moments of 
effusion which take women unawares. But her new servant 
was coming upstairs and she had to dry her eyes. 

Soon after she heard the cabman's feet on the staircase as 
he went up for Esther's box. They brought it down together, 
and Miss Rice heard her beg of him to be careful of the paint 
The girl had been a good and faithful servant to her ; she was 
sorry to lose her. And Esther was equally sorry that any one 
but herself should have the looking after of that dear, kind 
soul. But what could she do ? She was going to be married. 
She did not doubt that William was going to marry her ; and 
the cab had hardly entered the Brompton Road when her 
thoughts were fully centred in the life that awaited her. This 
sudden change of feeling surprised her, and she excused herself 



ESTHER WATERS. 233 

with the recollection that she had striven hard for Fred, but as 
she had failed to get him, it was only right that she should 
think of her husband. Then quite involuntarily the thought 
sprang upon her that he was a fine fellow, and she remembered 
the line of his stalwart figure as he walked down the street. 
There would be a parlour behind the bar, in which she would 
sit. She would be mistress of the house. There would be a 
servant, a potboy, and perhaps a barmaid. 

The cab swerved round the Circus, and she wondered if she 
were capable of conducting a business like the " King's Head." 

It was the end of a fine September evening, and the black, 
crooked perspectives of Soho seemed as if they were roofed 
with gold. A slight mist was rising, and at the end of every 
street the figures appeared and disappeared mysteriously in 
blue shadow. She had never been in this part of London 
before; the adventure stimulated her imagination, and she 
wondered where she was going and which of the many public- 
houses was hers ? But the cabman jingled past every one. It 
seemed as if he was never going to pull up. At last he 
stopped at the corner of Dean Street and Old Compton Street, 
nearly opposite a cab rank. The cabmen were inside, having 
a glass ; the usual vagrant was outside, looking after the horses. 
He offered to take down Esther's box, and when she asked him 
if he had seen Mr. Latch he took her round to the private bar. 
The door was pushed open, and Esther saw William leaning 
over the counter wrapped in conversation with a small, thin 
man. They were both smoking, their glasses were filled, and 
the sporting paper was spread out before them. 

" Oh, so here you are at last," said William, coming towards 
her. " I expected you an hour ago." 

" The new servant was late, and I couldn't leave before she 
came." 

" Never mind ; glad you've come." 

Esther felt that the little man was staring hard at her. He 
was John Randal, or Mr. Leopold, as they used to call him at 
Barfield. 

Mr. Leopold shook hands with Esther, and he muttered a 
" Glad to see you again." But it was the welcome of a man 
who regards a woman's presence as an intrusion. Esther under- 
stood the quiet contempt with which he looked at William. 
"Can't keep away from them," his face said for one brief 
moment. The conversation paused. William asked Esther 



234 ESTHER WATERS. 

what she'd take to drink, and Mr. Leopold looked at his watch 
and said he must be getting home. 

11 Try to come round to-morrow night if you've an hour to 
spare." 

" Then you don't think you'll go to Newmarket ? ■ 

" No, I don't think I shall do much in the betting way this 
year. But come round to-morrow night if you can, you'll find 
me here. I must be here to-morrow night," he said, turning to 
Esther ; " I'll tell you presently." Then the men had a few 
more words, and William bade John good-night. Coming back 
to Esther, he said — 

"What do you think of the place ? Cosy, ain't it?" But 
before she had time to reply he said, " You've brought me good 
luck. I won two 'undred and fifty pounds to-day, and the 
money will come in very 'andy, for Jim Stevens, that's my 
partner, has agreed to take half the money on account and a 
bill of sale for the rest. There he is, I'll introduce you to him. 
Jim, come this way, will you ? " 

" In a moment, when I've finished drawing this 'ere glass of 
beer," answered a thick-set, short-limbed man. He was in his 
shirt -sleeves, and he crossed the bar wiping the beer from his 
hands. 

" Let me introduce you to a very particular friend of mine, 
Jim, Miss Waters." 

"Very 'appy, I'm sure, to make your acquaintance," said Jim, 
and he extended his fat hand across the counter. " You and 
my partner are, I 'ear, going to take this 'ere 'ouse off my hands. 
Well, you ought to make a good thing of it. There's always 
room for a 'ouse that supplies good liquor. What can I hoffer 
you, madam ? Some of our whisky has been fourteen years in 
bottle ; or, being a lady, perhaps you'd like to try some of our 
best unsweetened." 

Esther declined, but William said they could not leave without 
drinking the health of the house. 

" Irish or Scotch, ma'am ? Mr. Latch drinks Scotch." 

Seeing that she could not get out of taking something, Esther 
decided that she would try the unsweetened. The glasses were 
clinked across the counter, and William whispered, " This isn't 
what we sell to the public ; this is our own special tipple. You 
didn't notice, perhaps, but he took the bottle from the third row 
on the left." 

At that moment Esther's cabman came in and wanted to 



ESTHER WATERS. 235 

know if he was to have the box taken down. William said it 
had better remain where it was. 

" I don't think I told you, I'm not living here ; my partner 
has the upper part of the house, but he says he'll be ready to 
turn out at the end of the week. I'm living in lodgings near 
Shaftesbury Avenue, so we'd better keep the cab on." 

Esther looked disappointed, but said nothing. William said 
he'd stand the cabby a drink, and, winking at Esther, he 
whispered, " Third row on the left, partner/' 



236 ESTHER WATERS. 



XXX. 

The " King's Head" was an humble place in the old-fashioned 
style. The house must have been built two hundred years, and 
the bar seemed as if it had been dug out of the house. The 
floor was some inches lower than the street, and the ceiling was 
hardly more than a couple of feet above the head of a tall 
man. Nor was it divided by numerous varnished partitions, 
according to the latest fashion. There were but three. The 
private entrance was in Dean Street, where a few swells came 
over from the theatre and called for brandies-and-sodas. There 
was a little mahogany what-not on the counter, and Esther 
served her customers between the little shelves. The public 
entrance and the jug and bottle entrance were in a side street. 
There was no parlour for special customers at the back, and 
the public bar was inconveniently crowded by a dozen people. 
The "King's Head" was not an up-to-date public-house. It 
had, however, one thing in its favour — it was a free house, and 
William said they had only to go on supplying good stuff, and 
trade would be sure to come back to them. For their former 
partner had done them much harm by systematic adulteration, 
and a little way down the street a new establishment, with 
painted tiles, brass lamps, had been opened, and was attracting 
all the custom of the neighbourhood. She was more anxious 
than William to know what loss the books showed ; she 
was jealous of the profits of his turf account, and when he 
laughed at her she said, " But you're never here in the 
daytime, you do not have these empty bars staring you in 
the face morning and afternoon." And then she would tell 
him : a dozen pots of beer about dinner-time, a few glasses of 
bitter — there had been a rehearsal over the way — and that was 
about all. 

The bars were empty, and the public-house dozed through 
the heavy heat of a summer afternoon. Esther sat behind the 



ESTHER WATERS. 23? 

bar sewing, waiting for Jackie to come home from school. 
William was away at Newmarket; the clock struck live. Jackie 
peeped through the doors, dived under the counter, and ran into 
his mother's arms. 

" Well, did you get full marks to-day ? * 

" Yes, Mummie, I got full marks." 

" That's a good boy — and you want your tea ? " 

"Yes, Mummie, I'm that hungry; I could hardly walk 
home." 

" Hardly walk home ! What, as bad as that ?" 

" Yes, Mummie. There's a new shop open in Oxford Street. 
The window is all full of boats. Do you think that if all the 
favourites were to be beaten for a month, father would buy me 
■one?" 

"I thought you was so hungry you couldn't walk home, 
•dear?" 

" Well, Mummie, so I was, but " 

Esther laughed. " Well, come this way and have your tea." 
-She went into the parlour and rang the bell. 

" Mummie, may I have buttered toast ? " 

"Yes, dear, you may." 

l " And may I go downstairs and help Jane to make it ? " 

"Yes, you can do that, too; it will save her the trouble of 
coming up. Let me take off your coat — give me your hat; 
now run along, and help Jane to make the toast." 

Esther opened a glass door, curtained with red silk ; it led 
from the bar to the parlour, a tiny room, hardly larger than the 
private bar, holding with difficulty a small round table, three 
chairs, an arm-chair, a cupboard. In the morning a dusty 
window let in a melancholy twilight, but early in the after- 
noon it became necessary to light the gas. Esther took a 
cloth from the cupboard, and laid the table for Jackie's tea. 
He came up the kitchen stairs telling Jane how many marbles 
he had won. At that moment voices were heard in the bar. 

Esther opened the door. It was William, tall and gaunt, 
buttoned up in a grey frock-coat, a pair of field glasses slung 
over his shoulders. He was with his clerk, Fred Blamer, a 
feeble, wizen little man dressed in a shabby tweed suit, covered 
with white dust ; he staggered under the weight of a Gladstone 
bag. 

" Put that bag down, Teddy, and come and have a drink." 

Esther saw at once that things had not gone well with him. 



238 ESTHER WATERS. 

"Have the favourites been winning ? " 

"Yes, every bloody one. Five first favourites straight off 
the reel, three yesterday, and two second favourites the day 
before. By God, no man can stand up against it. Come, 
what'll you have to drink, Teddy ? " 

" A little whisky, please, Guv'nor." 

The men had their drink. Then William told Teddy to 
• take his bag upstairs, and he followed Esther into the parlour. 
She could see that he had been losing heavily, but she refrained 
from asking questions. 

"Now, Jackie, you keep your father company; tell him how 
you got on at school. I'm going downstairs to look after his 
dinner." 

" Don't you mind about my dinner, Esther, don't you trouble; 
I was thinking of dining at a restaurant. I'll be back at nine." 

" Then I'll see nothing of you. We've hardly spoken to one 
another this week ; all the day you're away racing, and in the 
evening you're talking to your friends over the bar. We never 
have a moment alone." 

"Yes, Esther, I know; but the truth is I'm a bit down in 
the mouth. I've had a very bad week. The favourites has been 
winning, and I overlaid my book against Wheatear; I'd heard 
that she was as safe as 'ouses. I'll meet some palls down 
at the ; Cri ' ; it will cheer me up." 

Seeing how disappointed she was, he hesitated, and asked 
what there was for dinner. " A sole and a nice piece of steak, 
I'm sure you'll like it. I've a lot to talk to you about. Do 
stop, Bill, to please me." She was very winning in her quiet, 
grave way, so he took her in his arms, kissed her, and said he 
would stop, that no one could cook a sole as she could, that it 
gave him an appetite to think of it. 

"And may I stop with father while you are cooking his 
dinner ? " said Jackie. 

" Yes, you can do that; but you must go to bed when I bring 
it upstairs. I want to talk with father then." 

Jackie seemed quite satisfied with this arrangement, but 
when Esther came upstairs with the sole, and was about to 
hand him over to Jane, he begged lustily to be allowed to 
remain until father had finished his fish. "It won't matter 
to you," he said ; " you've to go downstairs to fry the steak." 

But when she came up with the steak he was as unwilling as 
ever to leave. She said he must go to bed, and he knew from 



ESTHER WATERS. 239 

her tone that argument was useless. As a last consolation, 
she promised him that she would come upstairs and kiss him 
before he went to sleep. 

" You will come, won't you, Mummie ? I shan't go to sleep 
till you do." Esther and William both laughed. Esther was 
pleased, for she was still a little jealous of his love for his 
father. 

"Come along," Jackie cried to Jane, and he ran upstairs, 
chattering to her about the toys he had seen in Oxford Street. 
Charles was lighting the gas. Esther had to go into the bar to 
serve some customers, then she returned to W 7 illiam, leaving 
the door ajar. He was smoking his pipe. Her dinner had 
had its effect. He had forgotten his losses, and was willing to 
tell her the news. He had a bit of news for her. He had 
seen Ginger ; Ginger had come up as cordial as you like, and 
had asked him what price he was laying. 

" Did he bet with you ? " 

" Yes, I laid him ten pounds to five." 

It was useless to ask if he had won. Once more William 
began to lament his luck. " You'll have better luck to-morrow," 
she said. "The favourites can't go on winning. Tell me 
about Ginger." 

" There isn't much to tell. We'd a little chat. He knew all 
about the little arrangement, the five hundred, you know, and 
laughed heartily. Sally's married, I've forgotten the chap's 
name." 

" The one that you kicked downstairs ? " 

" No, not him ; I can't think of it. No matter, Ginger re- 
membered you ; he wished us luck, took the address, and said 
he'd come in to-night to see you if he possibly could. I don't 
think he's been doing too well lately, if he had he'd been more 
stand-offish. I saw Jimmy White — you remember Jim, the little 
fellow we used to call the Demon, 'e that won the Stewards' Cup 
on Silver Braid ? . . . Didn't you and 'e 'ave a tussle together 
at the end of dinner — the first day you come down from 
town ? " 

" The second day it was." 

" You're right, it was the second day. The first day I met 
you in the avenue I was leaning over the railings having a 
smoke, and you come along with a heavy bundle and asked me 
the way. I wasn't in service at that time. Good Lord, how 
time does slip by ! It seems like yesterday. . . . And after all 



240 ESTHER WATERS. 

those years to meet you as you was going to the public for a jug 
of beer, and 'ere we are man and wife sitting side by side in our 
own 'ouse." 

Esther had been in the " King's Head " nearly a year. The 
first Mrs. Latch had got her divorce without difficulty; and 
Esther began to realise that she had got a good husband long 
before they slipped round to the nearest registry office and 
came back man and wife. 

Charles opened the door. " Mr. Randal is in the bar, sir, 
and would like to have a word with you." 

" All right," said William. " Tell him I'm coming into the 
bar presently." Charles withdrew. " I'm afraid," said William, 
lowering his voice, " that the old chap is in a bad way. He's 
been out of a place a long while, and will find it 'ard to get back 
again. Once yer begin to age a bit, they won't look at you. 
We're both well out of the business." 

Mr. Randal sat in his favourite corner by the wall, smoking 
his clay. He wore a large frock-coat, vague in shape, pathetic- 
ally respectable. The round hat was greasy round the edges, 
brown and dusty on top. The shirt was clean but unstarched, 
and the thin throat was tied with an old black silk cravat. He 
looked himself, the old servant out of situation — the old servant 
who would never be in situation again. 

" Been 'aving an 'ell of a time at Newmarket," said William ; 
" favourites romping in one after the other." 

" I saw that the favourites had been winning. But I know 
of something, a rank outsider, for the Leger. I got the letter 
this morning. I thought I'd come round and tell yer." 

" Much obliged, old mate, but it don't do for me to listen to 
such tales ; we bookmakers must pay no attention to informa- 
tion, no matter how correct it may be. . . . Much obliged all 
the same. What are you drinking ? " 

"I've not finished my glass yet" He tossed off the last 
mouthful. 

" The same ? " said William. 

" Yes, thank you." 

William drew two glasses of porter. " Here's luck." The 
men nodded, drank, and then William turned to speak to a group 
at the other end of the bar. "One moment, "John said, touching 
William on the shoulder. " It is the best tip I ever had in my 
life. I 'aven't forgotten what I owe you, and if this comes off 
I'll be able to pay you all back. Lay the odds, twenty 



ESTHER WATERS. 24 1 

sovereigns to one against " Old John looked round to see 

that no one was within ear-shot, then he leant forward and 
whispered the horse's name in William's ear. William laughed. 
" If you're so sure about it as all that," he said, " I'd sooner 
lend you the quid to back the horses elsewhere." 

" Will you lend me a quid ? " 

"Lend you a quid and five first favourites romping in one 
after another ! — you must take me for Baron Rothschild. You 
think because I've a public-house I'm coining money; well, 
I ain't. It's cruel the business we do here. You wouldn't 
believe it, and you know that better liquor can't be got in the 
neighbourhood." Old John listened with the indifference of 
a man whose life is absorbed in one passion and can interest 
himself with nothing else. Esther asked him after Mrs. Randal 
and his children, but conversation on the subject was 
always disagreeable to him, and he passed it over with few 
words. As soon as Esther moved away he leant forward and 
whispered, "Lay me twelve pounds to ten shillings. I'll be 
sure to pay you; there's a new restaurant going to open in Oxford 
Street and I'm going to apply for the place of head-waiter." 

" Yes, but will you get it ? " William answered brutally. He 
did not mean to be unkind, but his nature was as hard and as 
plain as a kitchen table. The chin dropped into the unstarched 
collar and the old-fashioned necktie, and old John continued 
smoking unnoticed by any one. Esther looked at him. 
She saw he was down on his luck, and she remembered the 
tall, melancholy, pale-faced woman whom she had met weeping 
by the sea-shore the day that Silver Braid had won the cup. 
She wondered what had happened to her, in what corner did 
she live, and where was the son that John Randal had not 
allowed to enter the Barfield establishment as page-boy, 
thinking he would be able to make something better of him 
than a servant ? 

The regular customers had begun to come in. Esther greeted 
them with nods and smiles of recognition. She drew the beer 
two glasses at once in her hand, and picked up little zinc 
measures, two and four of whisky, and filled them from a small 
tap. She usually knew the taste of her customers. When she 
made a mistake she muttered "stupid," and Mr. Ketley was 
much amused at her forgetting that he always drank out of the 
bottle; he was one of the few who came to the "King's 
Head " who could afford sixpenny whisky. " I ought to have 

16 



242 ESTHER WATERS. 

known by this time," she said. " Well, mistakes will occur in 
the best regulated families," the little butterman replied. He 
was meagre and meek, with a sallow complexion and blond 
beard. His pale eyes were anxious, and his thin bony hands 
restless. His general manner was oppressed, and he frequently 
raised his hat to wipe his forehead, which was high and bald. 
At his elbow stood Journeyman, Ketley's very opposite. A 
tall, harsh, angular man, long features, a dingy complexion, 
and the air of a dismissed soldier. He held a glass of whisky- 
and-water in a hairy hand, and bit at the corner of a brown 
moustache. He wore a threadbare black frock-coat, and 
carried a newspaper under his arm. Ketley and Journeyman 
held widely different views regarding the best means of backing 
horses. Ketley was preoccupied with dreams and omens; 
Journeyman, a clerk in the parish registry office, studied public 
form; he was guided by it in all his speculations, and paid little 
heed to the various rumours always afloat regarding private 
trials. Public form he admitted did not always come out right, 
but if a man had a headpiece and could remember all the run- 
ning, public form was good enough to follow. Racing with 
Journeyman was a question of calculation, and great therefore 
was his contempt for the weak and smiling Ketley, whom he 
went for on all occasions. But Ketley was pluckier than his 
appearance indicated, and the duels between the two were a 
constant source of amusement in the bar of the " King's Head." 

" Well, Herbert, the omen wasn't altogether up to the mark 
this time," said Journeyman, with a malicious twinkle in his 
small brown eyes. 

11 No, it was one of them unfortunate accidents." 

" One of them unfortunate accidents," repeated Journeyman 
derisively; "what's accidents to do with them that 'as to do 
with the reading of omens ? I thought they rose above such 
trifles as weights, distances, bad riding'. ... A stone or two 
should make no difference if the omen is right." 

Ketley was no way put out by the slight titter that Journey- 
man's retort had produced in the group about the bar. He 
drank his whisky-and-water deliberately, like one, to use a 
racing expression, who had been over the course before. 

" I've 'eard that argument, I know all about it, but it don't 
alter me. Too many strange things occur for me to think that 
everything can be calculated with a bit of lead-pencil in a 
greasy pocket-book." 



ESTHER WATERS. 243 

" What has the grease of my pocket-book to do with it ? " 
replied Journeyman, looking round. The company smiled 
and nodded. " You says that signs and omens is above any 
calculation of weights, never mind the pocket-book, greasy or 
not greasy; you says that these omens is more to be depended 
on than the best stable information." 

" I thought that you placed no reliance on stable informa- 
tion, and that you was guided by the weights that you calcu- 
lated in that 'ere pocket-book." 

" What's my pocket-book got to do with it ? You want to 
see my pocket-book j well, here it is, and I'll bet two glasses of 
beer that it ain't greasier than any other pocket-book in this 
bar." 

" I don't see meself what pocket-books, greasy or not greasy, 
has to do with it," said William. " Walter put a fair question 
to Herbert. The omen didn't come out right, and Walter 
wanted to know why it didn't come out right." 

" That was it," said Journeyman. 

All eyes were now fixed on Ketley. " You want to know 
why the omen wasn't right ? I'll tell you — because it was no 
omen at all, that's why. The omens always comes right ; it is 
we who aren't always in the particular state of mind that allows 
us to read the omens right." Journeyman shrugged his 
shoulders contemptuously. Ketley looked at him with the 
same expression of placid amusement. " You'd like me to 
explain ; well, I will. The omen is always right, but we aren't 
always in the state of mind for the reading of the omen. You 
think that ridiculous, Walter; but why should omens differ 
from other things ? Some days we can get through our 
accounts in 'alf the time we can at other times, the mind 
being clearer. I asks all present if that is not so ? " 

Ketley had got hold of his audience, and Journeyman's 
remark about closing-time only provoked a momentary titter. 
Ketley looked long and steadily at Journeyman and then said, 
"Perhaps closing-time won't do no more for your calculation 
of weights than for my omens. ... I know them jokes — 
we've 'eard them afore ; but I'm not making jokes, I'm talking 
serious." The company nodded approval. " I was saying 
there was times when the mind is fresh like the morning. 
That's the time for them what 'as got the gift of reading the 
omens. It is a sudden light that comes into the mind, and it 
points straight like a ray of sunlight, if there be nothing to stop 



244 ESTHER WATERS. 

it. . . . Now do you understand ? " No one had understood, 
but all felt that they were on the point of understanding. 
" The whole thing is in there being nothing to interrupt the 
light." 

" But you says yourself that yer can't always read them," 
said Journeyman ; " an accident will send you off on the wrong 
track, so it all comes to the same thing, omens or no omens." 

" A man will trip over a piece of wire laid across the street, 
but that don't prove he can't walk, do it, Walter ? " 

Walter was unable to say that it did not, and so Ketley 
scored another point over his opponent. " I made a mistake, 
I know I did, and if it will help you to understand I'll tell you 
how it was made. Three weeks ago I was in this 'ere bar 
'aving what I usually takes. It was a bit early ; none of you 
fellows had come in. I don't think it was much after eight. 
The governor was away in the north racin' — hadn't been 'ome 
for three or four days ; the Missus was beginning to look a bit 
lonely." Ketley smiled and glanced at Esther, who had told 
Charles to serve some customers, and was listening as intently 
as the rest. " I'd 'ad a nice bit of supper, and was just feeling 
that fresh and clear-'eaded, as I was explaining to you just now 
is required for the reading, thinking of nothing in perticler, 
when suddenly the light came. I remembered a conversation 
I 'ad with a chap about American corn. He wouldn't 'ear of the 
Government taxing corn to 'elp the British farmer. Well, that 
conversation came back to me clear as if the dawn had begun 
to break. I could positively see the bloody corn ; I could 
pretty well 'ave counted it. I felt there was an omen about 
somewhere, and all of a tremble I took up the paper ; it was 
lying on the bar just where your 'and is, Walter. But at that 
moment, just as I was about to cast my eye down the list of 
'orses, a cab comes down the street as 'ard as it could tear. 
There was but two or three of us in the bar, and we rushed 
out ; the shafts was broke, 'orse galloping and kicking, and the 
cabby 'olding on as 'ard as he could. But it was no good, it 
was bound to go, and over it went against the curb. The cabby, 
poor chap, was pretty well shook to pieces ; his leg was broke, 
and we'd to 'elp to take him to the hosspital. Now I asks if 
it was no more than might be expected that I should have gone 
wrong about the omen. Next day, as luck would have it, I rolled 
up 'alf a pound of butter in a piece of paper on which Cross 
Roads was written." 



ESTHER WATERS. 245 

" But if there had been no accident and you 'ad looked down 
the list of 'orses, 'ow do yer know that yer would 'ave spotted 
the winner?" 

"What, not Wheatear, and with all that American corn in my 
'ead ? Is it likely I'd We missed it ? " 

No one answered, and Ketley drank his whisky in the 
midst of a most thoughtful silence At last one of the group 
said, and he seemed to express the general mind of the 
company — 

" I don't know if omens be worth a-following of, but I'm 
blowed if 'orses be worth backing if the omens is again 
them." 

His neighbour answered, "And they do come wonderful 
true occasional. They 'as 'appened to me, and I daresay to all 
'ere present." The company nodded thoughtfully. " You've 
noticed how them that knows nothing at all about 'orses — the 
less they knows the better their luck — will look down the lot 
and spot the winner from pure fancy — the name that catches 
their eyes as likely." 

"There's something in it," said a corpulent butcher with 
huge pursy prominent eyes and a portentous stomach. " I 
always held with going to Church, and I holds still more with 
going to Church since I backed Vanity for the Chester Cup. 
I was a-falling asleep over the sermon, when suddenly I wakes 
up hearing 'Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.'" 

Several similar stories were told, and then various systems 
for backing horses were discussed. " You don't believe that 
no 'orses is pulled," said Mr. Stack, the porter at Sutherland 
Mansions, Oxford Street, a large bluff man, wearing a dark 
blue square-cut frock-coat with brass buttons. A curious- 
looking man, with red-stained skin, dark beady eyes, a scanty 
growth of beard, and a loud assuming voice. " You don't 
believe that no 'orses is pulled," he reiterated. 

" I didn't say that no 'orse was never pulled," said Journey- 
man. He stood with his back leaning against the partition, his 
long legs stretched out. " If one was really in the know, then 
I don't say nothing about it ; but who of us is ever really in 
the know ? " 

" I'm not so sure about that," said Mr. Stack. " There's a 
young man in my mansions that 'as a servant ; this servant's 
cousin, a girl in the country, keeps company with one of the 
lads in the White House stable. If that ain't good enough 



246 ESTHER WATERS. 

I don't know what is; good enough for my half-crown and 
another pint of beer too, Mrs. Latch, as you'll be that kind." 

Esther drew the beer, and old John, who had said nothing 
till now, suddenly joined in the conversation. He too had 
heard of something, he didn't know if it was the same as 
Stack had heard of; he didn't expect it was. It couldn't 
very well be, 'cause no one knew of this particular horse, 
not a soul — not 'alf-a-dozen people in the world. No, 
he would tell no one until his money and the stable money 
was all right. And he didn't care for no half-crowns or 
dollars this time, if he couldn't get a sovereign or two on 
the horse he'd let it alone. This time he'd be a man or 
a mouse. Every one was listening intently, but old John 
suddenly assumed an air of mystery and refused to say another 
word. The conversation worked back whither it had started, 
and again the best method of backing horses was passionately 
discussed. Interrupting some one whose theories seemed 
intolerably ludicrous, Journeyman said — 

" Let's 'ear what's the governor's opinion ; he ought to know 
what kind of backer gets the most out of him." 

Journeyman's proposal to submit the question to the governor 
met with very general approval. Even the vagrant who had 
taken his tankard of porter to the bench where he could drink 
and eat what fragments of food he had collected, came for- 
ward, interested to know what kind of backer got most out of 
the bookmaker. 

" Well," said William, " I haven't been making a book as 
long as some of them, but since you ask me what I think I 
tell you straight. I don't care a damn whether they backs 
according to their judgment, or their dreams, or their fancy. 
The cove that follows favourites, or the cove that backs a 
jockey's mount, the cove that makes an occasional bet when he 
hears of a good thing, the cove that bets regular, 'cording to 
a system — the cove, yer know, what doubles every time — or the 
cove that bets as the mood takes him — them and all the other 
coves, too numerous to be mentioned, I'm glad to do business 
with. I cries out to one as 'eartily as to another : ' The old 
firm, the old firm, don't forget the old firm. . . . What can I 
do for you to-day, sir?' There's but one sort of cove I can't 
abide." 

"And he is ? " said Journeyman. 

" He is Mr. George Buff." 



ESTHER WATERS. 247 

" Who's he ? who's he ? " asked several ; and the vagrant 
caused some amusement by the question, " Do 'e bet on the 
course ? " 

"Yes he do," said William, "an' nowhere else. He's at 
every meeting as reg'lar as if he was a bookie himself. I 'ates 
to see his face. ... I'd be a rich man if I'd all the money that 
man 'as 'ad out of me in the last three years." 

"What should you say was his system?" asked Mr. Stack. 

" I don't know no more than yerselves." 

This admission seemed a little chilling ; for every one had 
thought himself many steps nearer El Dorado. 

" But did you never notice," said Mr. Ketley, " that there 
was certain days on which he bet ? " 

" No, I never noticed that." 

" Are they outsiders that he backs ? " asked Stack. 

" No, only favourites. But what I can't make out is that there 
are times when he won't touch them; and when he don't, nine 
times out of ten they're beaten." 

"Are the 'orses he backs what you'd call well in?" said 
Journeyman. 

" Not always." 

"Then it must be on information from the stable authori- 
ties ? " said Stack. 

" J dun know," said William ; " have it that way if you like, 
but I'm glad there ain't many about like him. I wish he'd take 
his custom elsewhere. He gives me the solid hump, he do." 

" What sort of man should you say he was ? 'As he been a 
servant, should you say ? " asked old John. 

"I can't tell you what he is. Always new suits of clothes 
and a hie-glass. Whenever I see that 'ere hie-glass and that 
brown beard my heart goes down in my boots. When he 
don't bet he takes no notice, walks past with a vague look on 
his face as if he didn't see the people, and he don't care that 
for the 'orses. Knowing he don't mean no business, I cries to 
him, ' The best price, Mr. Buff; two to one on the field, ten to 
one bar two or three.' He just catches his hie-glass tighter in 
eye and looks at me, smiles, shakes his head, and goes on. He 
is a warm 'un; he is just about as 'ot as they make 'em." 

" What I can't make out," said Journeyman, " is why he bets 
on the course. You say he don't know nothing about horses. 
Why don't he remain at 'ome and save the Xses ? " 

"I've thought of all that," said William, " and can't make no 



248 ESTHER WATERS. 

more out of it than you can yerselves. All we know is that 
divided up between five or six of us, Buff costs not far short of 
six 'undred a year." 

At that moment a small blond man came into the bar. 
Esther knew him at once. It was Ginger. He had hardly 
changed at all — a little sallower, a little dryer, a trifle less like 
a gentleman. 

" Won't you step round, sir, to the private bar?" said William. 
" You'll be more comfortable." 

" Hardly worth while. I was at the theatre, and I thought I'd 
come in and have a look round. ... I see that you haven't 
forgotten the old horses," he said, catching sight of the prints 
of Silver Braid and Summer's Dean which William had hung 
on the wall. " That was a great day, wasn't it ? Fifty to one 
chance, started at thirty; and you remember the Gaffer tried 
him to win with twenty pound more than he had to carry. . . . 
Hullo, John ! very glad to see you again ; growing strong and 
well, I hope?" 

The old servant looked so shabby that Esther was not 
surprised that Ginger did not shake hands with him. She 
wondered if he would remember her, and as the thought 
passed through her mind he extended his hand across the bar. 

"I 'ope I may have the honour of drinking a glass of wine 
with you, sir," said William. Ginger raised no objection, and 
William told Esther to go downstairs and fetch up a bottle of 
champagne. 

Ketley, Journeyman, Stack, and the others listened eagerly. 
To meet the celebrated gentleman-rider was a great event in 
their lives. But the conversation was confined to the Bar- 
field horses; it was carried on by the merest allusion, and 
Journeyman wearied of it. He said he must be getting home ; 
the others nodded, finished their glasses, and bade William 
good-night as they left. A couple of flower-girls with loose 
hair, shawls, and trays of flowers, suggestive of street-faring, 
came in and ordered four ale. They spoke to the vagrant, who 
collected his match-boxes in preparation for a last search for 
charity. William cut the wires of the champagne, and at that 
moment Charles, who had gone through with the ladder to 
turn out the street lamp, returned with a light overcoat on his 
arm which he said, a cove outside wanted to sell him for two- 
and-six. 

" Do you know him ? " said William. 



ESTHER WATERS. 249 

" Yes, I knowed him. I had to put him out the other night 
— Bill Evans, the cove that wears the blue Melton." 

The swing doors were opened, and a man between thirty and 
forty came in. He was about the medium height ; a dark 
olive skin, black curly hair, picturesque and disreputable like 
a bird of prey in his blue Melton jacket and billycock hat. 

"You'd better 'ave the coat," he said; "you won't better it;" 
and coming into the bar he planked down a penny as if it 
were a sovereign, " Glass of porter ; nice warm weather, good 
for the 'arvest. Just come up from the country — a bit dusty, 
ain't I?" 

" Ain't you the chap," said William, " what laid Mr. Ketley 
six 'alf-crowns to one against Cross Roads ? " 

Charles nodded, and William continued — 

" I like your cheek coming into my bar." 

" No harm done, guv'nor, no one was about ; wouldn't 'ave 
done it if they had." 

"That'll do," said William. "... No, he don't want the 
coat. W T e likes to know where our things comes from." 

Bill Evans finished his glass. " Good-night, guv'nor ; no ill- 
feeling." 

The flower-girls laughed ; one offered him a flower. " Take 
it for love," she said. He was kind enough to do so, and the 
three went out together. 

" I don't like the looks of that chap," said William, and he 
let go the champagne cork. "Yer health, sir." They raised 
their glasses, and the conversation turned on next week's 
racing. 

" I dun know about next week's events," said old John, 
" but I've heard of something for the Leger — an outsider will 
win." 

" Have you backed it ? " 

" I would if I had the money, but things have been going 
very unlucky with me lately. But I'd advise you, sir, to have 
a trifle on. It's the best tip I 'ave had in my life." 

" Really ! " said Ginger, beginning to feel interested. " So 
I will, and so shall you. I'm damn'd if you shan't have your 
bit on. Come, what is it ? William will lay the odds. What 
is it?" 

"Briar Rose, the White House stable, sir." 

"Why, I thought that " 

"No such thing, sir; Briar Rose 's the one." 



250 ESTHER WATERS. 

Ginger took up the paper. " Twenty-five to one Briar Rose 
taken." 

" You see, sir, it was taken." 

" Will you lay the price, William — twenty-five half-sovereigns 
to one ? " 

"Yes, I'll lay it." 

Ginger took a half-sovereign from his pocket and handed it 
to the bookmaker. 

" I never take money over this bar. You're good for a thin 
'un, sir," William said with a smile, as he handed back the 
money. 

" But I don't know when I shall see you again," said Ginger. 
" It will be very inconvenient. There's no one in the bar." 

"None but the match-seller and them two flower-girls. I 
suppose they don't matter ? " 

Happiness flickered up through the old greyness of the face. 
Henceforth something to live for. Each morning bringing 
news of the horse, and the hours of the afternoon passing 
pleasantly, full of thoughts of the evening paper and the gossip 
of the bar. A bet on a race brings hope into lives which 
otherwise would be hopeless. 



ESTHER WATERS. 2$ 



XXXI. 

Never had a Derby excited greater interest. Four hot 
favourites, between which the public seemed unable to choose. 
Two to one taken and offered against Fly-leaf, winner of the 
two thousand ; four to one taken and offered against Signet- 
Ring, who, half-trained, had run Fly-leaf to a head. Four 
to one against Necklace, the winner of the Middle Park Plate 
and the one thousand. Seven to one against Dewberry, the 
brilliant winner of the Newmarket Stakes. The chances 
of these horses were argued every night at the " King's 
Head." Ketley's wife used to wear a string of yellow beads 
when she was a girl, but she wasn't certain what had become 
of them. Ketley did not wear a signet-ring and had never 
known any one who did. Dewberries grew on the river banks, 
but they were not ripe yet. Fly-leaf, he could not make much 
of that — not being much of a reader. So what with one 
thing and another Ketley didn't believe much in this 'ere 
Derby. Journeyman caustically remarked that omens or no 
omens one horse was bound to win. Why didn't Herbert look 
for an omen among the outsiders? Old John's experiences 
led him to think that the race lay between Fly-leaf and 
Signet-Ring. He had a great faith in blood, and Signet- 
Ring came of a more staying stock than did Fly-leaf. 
"When they begin to climb out of the dip Fly-leaf will 
have had about enough of it." Stack nodded approval. He 
had five bob on Dewberry. He didn't know much about his 
staying powers, but all the stable is on him; "and when I know 
the stable-money is right I says, 'that's good enough for me V " 
Ginger, who came in occasionally, was very sweet on 
Necklace, whom he declared to be the finest mare of the 
century. He was listened to with awed attention, and there 
was a death-like silence in the bar when he described how 
she won the one thousand. He wouldn't have ridden her 



252 ESTHER WATERS. 

quite that way himself; but then what was a steeplechase 
rider's opinion worth regarding a flat race? The company 
demurred, and old John alluded to Ginger's magnificent riding 
when he won the Liverpool on Foxcover, steadying the horse 
about sixty yards from home and bringing him up with a rush 
in the last dozen strides, nailing Jim Sutton, who had perse- 
vered all the way, on the very post by a head. Bill Evans, 
who happened to look in that evening, said that he would not 
be surprised to see all the four favourites bowled out by an 
outsider. He had heard something that was good enough for 
him. He didn't suppose the guv'nor would take him on the 
nod, but he had a nice watch which ought to be good for 
three ten. 

" Turn it up, old mate," said William. 

"All right, guv'nor, I never presses my goods on them that 
don't want 'em. If there's any other gentleman who would 
like to look at this 'ere timepiece, or a pair of sleeve links, 
they're in for fifteen shillings. Here's the ticket. I'm a bit 
short of money, and have a fancy for a certain outsider. I'd 
like to have my bit on, and I'll dispose of the ticket for — what 
do you say to a thin 'un, Mr. Ketley ? " 

"Did you 'ear me speak just now?" William answered 
angrily, " or shall I have to get over the counter ? " 

"I suppose, Mrs. Latch, you have seen a great deal of 
racing ? " said Ginger. 

" No, sir. I've heard a great deal about racing, but I never 
saw a race run." 

" How's that, shouldn't you care ? " 

"You see, my husband has his betting to attend to, and 
there's the house to look after." 

" I never thought of it before," said William. " You've never 
seen a race run, no more you haven't. Would you care to 
come and see the Derby run next week, Esther ? " 

" I think I should." 

At that moment the policeman stopped and looked in. All 
eyes went up to the clock, and Esther said, " We shall lose our 
licence if " 

" If we don't get out," said Ginger. 

William apologised. 

" The law is the law, sir, for rich and poor alike ; should be 
sorry to hurry you, sir, but in these days very little will lose a 
man his house. Now, Herbert, finish your drink. No, Walter, 



ESTHER WATERS. 253 

can't serve any more liquor to-night. . . . Charles, close the 
private bar, let no one else in. . . . Now, gentlemen, gentle- 
men." 

Old John lit his pipe and led the way. William held the 
door for them. A few minutes after the house was closed. 

A locking of drawers, fastening of doors, putting away 
glasses, making things generally tidy, an hour's work before 
bed-time, and then they lighted their candle in the little par- 
lour and went upstairs. 

William flung off his coat. '* I'm dead beat," he said, "and 

all this to lose " He didn't finish the sentence. Esther 

said — 

" You've a heavy book on the Derby. Perhaps an outsider 
'11 win." 

" I 'ope so. . . . But if you'd care to see the race, I think it 
can be managed. I shall be busy, but Journeyman or Ketley 
will look after you." 

" I don't know that I should care to walk about all day with 
Journeyman, nor Ketley neither." 

They were both tired, and with an occasional remark they 
undressed and got into bed. Esther laid her head on the 
pillow and closed her eyes. . . . 

" I wonder if there's any one going who you'd care for ? " 

" I don't care a bit about it, Bill." The conversation paused. 
At the end of a long silence William said — 

" It do seem strange that you who has been mixed up in it 
so much should never have seen a race." Esther didn't 
answer. She was falling asleep, and William's voice was 
beginning to sound vague in her ears. Suddenly she felt him 
give her a great shove. " Wake up, old girl, I've got it. Why 
not ask your old pal, Sarah Tucker, to go with us ? I heard 
John say she's out of situation. It'll be a nice treat for her." 

" Ah ... I should like to see Sarah again." 

" You're half asleep." 

" No, I'm not ; you said we might ask Sarah to come to the 
Derby with us." 

William regretted that he had not a nice trap to drive them 
down. To hire one would run into a deal of money, and he 
was afraid it might make him late on the course. Besides, the 
road wasn't what it used to be ; every one goes by train now. 
They dropped off to sleep talking of how they should get 
Sarah's address. 



254 ESTHER WATERS. 

Three or four days passed, and one morning William jumped 
out of bed and said — 

11 1 think it will be a fine day, Esther." He took out his 
best suit of clothes and selected a handsome silk scarf for the 
occasion. Esther was a heavy sleeper, and she lay close to 
the wall, curled up. Taking no notice of her, William went on 
dressing ; then he said — 

" Now then, Esther, get up. Teddy will be here presently 
to pack up my clothes." 

" Is it time to get up ? " 

" Yes, I should think it was. For God's sake, get up." 

She had a new dress for the Derby. It had been bought in 
Tottenham Court Road, and had only come home last night. 
A real summer dress ! A lilac pattern on a white ground, the 
sleeves and throat and the white hat tastefully trimmed with 
lilac and white lace; a nice sunshade to match. At that 
moment a knock came at the door. 

"All right, Teddy, wait a moment, my wife's not dressed 
yet. Do make haste, Esther." 

Esther stepped into the skirt so as not to ruffle her hair, and 
she was buttoning the bodice when little Mr. Blamy entered. 

"Sorry to disturb you, ma'am, but there isn't no time to 
lose if the governor don't want to lose his place on the 'ill." 

" Now then, Teddy, make haste, get the toggery out ; don't 
stand there talking." 

The little man spread the Gladstone bag upon the floor and 
took a suit of checks from the chest of drawers, each square of 
black and white nearly as large as a sixpence. 

"You'll wear the green tie, sir?" William nodded. The 
green tie was a yard of flowing sea-green silk. " I've got you a 
bunch of yellow flowers, sir ; will you wear them now, or shall 
I put them in the bag ? " 

William glanced at the bouquet. " They look a bit loud," 
he said ; " I'll wait till we get on the course ; put them in the 
bag." 

The card to be worn in the white hat — William Latch, 
London, in gold letters on a green ground — was laid on top. 
The boots with soles three inches high went into the box on 
which William stood while he holloaed his prices to the crowd. 
Then there were the two poles which supported a strip of white 
linen, on which was written in gold letters, " William Latch, 
* The King's Head,' London. Fair prices, prompt payment." 



ESTHER WATERS. 255 

It was a grey day, with shafts of sunlight coming through, 
and as the cab passed over Waterloo Bridge, London — various 
embankments and St. Paul's on one side, wharves and ware- 
houses on the other, appeared in grey curves and straight 
silhouettes. The pavements were lined with young men— 
here and there a girl's blue dress. At the station they met 
Journeyman and old John, but Sarah was nowhere to be 
found. William said — 

" We shall be late ; we shall have to go without her." 

Esther's face clouded. " We can't go without her ; don't be 
so impatient." At that moment a white muslin flitted along 
the grey twilight of the platform, and Esther said, " I think 
that that's Sarah." 

Remembering their hats and hair, the women only ventured 
on a little peck of salutation, and William said, "You can 
chatter in the train — you'll have a whole hour to talk about 
each other's dress ; get in, get in," and he pressed them into a 
third-class carriage. The women chose places near the window. 
They had not seen each other for so long a while, and there 
was so much to say that they did not know where to begin. 
Sarah was the first to speak. 

" It was kind of you to think of me. So you're married, and 
to him after all ! " she added, lowering her voice. 

Esther laughed. " It do seem strange, don't it ? " 

"You'll tell me all about it," she said. " I wonder we didn't 
run across one another before." 

" I heard of you once from Margaret." 

They rolled out of the grey station into the raw sunlight. 
The plate-glass drew the rays together till they burnt the face 
and hands. They sped alongside of the upper windows, nearly 
on a level with the red and yellow chimney-pots ; they passed 
open spaces filled with cranes, old iron, and stacks of railway 
sleepers, pictorial advertisements, sky signs, great gasometers 
rising round and black in their iron cages over-topping or 
nearly the slender spires, and behind them the great London 
plain of blue roofs dim with morning mist, broken here and 
there with a fringe of foliage, the trees of some distant park. 
A train steamed along a hundred-arched viaduct; and along a 
black embankment other trains rushed by in a whirl of wheels, 
bringing thousands of clerks up from the suburbs to their city 
toil. 

The excursion jogged on, stopping for long intervals before 



256 ESTHER WATERS. 

strips of sordid garden where shirts and pink petticoats were 
blowing. Little streets ascended the hillsides; no more 
trams, 'buses too had disappeared, and afoot the folk hurried 
along the lonely pavements of their suburbs. At Clapham 
Junction betting men had crowded the platform ; they all wore 
grey overcoats with race-glasses slung over their shoulders. 
And the train still rolled through the brick wilderness which 
old John said was all country forty years ago. 

The men puffed at their pipes, and old John's anecdotes 
about the days when he and the Gaffer, in company with 
all the great racing men of the day, used to drive down by 
road, were listened to with admiration. Esther had finished 
telling the circumstance in which she had met Margaret; and 
Sarah questioned her about William and how her marriage had 
come about. The train had stopped outside of a little station, 
and the blue sky, with its light wispy clouds, became the topic 
of conversation. Old John did not like the look of those 
clouds, and the women glanced at the waterproofs which 
they carried on their arms. 

They passed bits of common with cows and a stray horse, 
also a little rural cemetery; but London suddenly began again 
—parish after parish, the same blue roofs, the same tenement 
houses. But this last parish was the last. The train had 
passed the first cedar and the first tennis lawn. And knowing 
it to be a Derby excursion the players paused in their play and 
looked up. Again the line was blocked; the train stopped 
again and again. But it had left London behind, and the last 
stoppage was in front of a beautiful June landscape. A thick 
meadow with a square weather-beaten church showing between 
the spreading trees ; miles of green corn, with birds flying in 
the bright air, and lazy clouds going out, making way for the 
endless blue of a long summer's day. 



ESTHER WATERS. 257 



XXXII. 

It had been arranged that William should don his betting 
toggery at the "Spread Eagle Inn." It stood at the cross- 
roads, only a little way from the station — a square house 
with a pillared porch. Even at this early hour the London 
pilgrimage was filing by. Horses were drinking in the 
trough ; their drivers were drinking in the bar ; girls in 
light dresses shared glasses of beer with young men. But 
the greater number of vehicles passed without stopping, 
anxious to get on the course. They went round the turn 
in long procession ; a policeman on a strong horse occupied 
the middle of the road. The waggonettes and coaches had 
red-coated guards, and the air was rent with the tooting of 
the long brass horns. Every kind of dingy trap went by, 
sometimes drawn by two, sometimes by only one horse — 
shays half a century old jingled along; there were even 
donkey-carts. Esther and Sarah were astonished at the 
number of costers, but old John told them that that was 
nothing to what it was fifty years ago. The year that Andover 
won the block began seven or eight miles from Epsom. They 
were often half-an-hour without moving. Such chaffing and 
laughing, the coster cracked his joke with the duke, but all 
that was done away with now. 

" Gracious ! " said Esther, when William appeared in his 
betting toggery, " I shouldn't have known you." 

He did seem very wonderful in his checks, green necktie, 
yellow flowers, and white hat with its gold inscription, " Mr. 
William Latch, London." 

"It's all right," he said ; "you never saw me before in these 
togs — fine, ain't they? But we're very late. Mr. North has 
offered to run me up to the course, but he's only two places. 
Teddy and me must be getting along — but you needn't hurry. 
The races won't begin for hours yet. It's only about a mile — 

17 



258 ESTHER WATERS. 

a nice walk. These gentlemen will look after you. You know 
where to find me," he said, turning to John and Walter. " You'll 
look after my wife and Miss Tucker, won't you ? " and forthwith 
he and Teddy jumped into a waggonette and drove away. 

" Well, that's what I calls cheek," said Sarah. " Going off by 
himself in a waggonette and leaving us to foot it." 

" He must look after his place on the 'ill or else he'll do no 
betting," said Journeyman. "We've plenty of time, racing don't 
begin till after one." 

Recollections of what the road had once been had loosened 
John's tongue, and he continued his reminiscences of the great 
days when Sir Thomas Hayward had laid fifteen thousand to 
ten thousand three times over against the favourite. The third 
bet had been laid at this very spot, but the Duke would not 
accept the third bet, saying that the horse was then being 
backed on the course at evens. So Sir Thomas had only lost 
^30,000 on the race. Journeyman was deeply interested in the 
anecdote ; but Sarah looked at the old man with a look that 
said, "Well, if I'm to pass the day with you two I never want 
to go to the Derby again. . . . Come on in front," she 
whispered to Esther, "and let them talk about their racing by 
themselves." The way led through a field ablaze with butter- 
cups ; it passed by a fish-pond into which three drunkards were 
gazing. " Do you hear what they're saying about the fish ? " 
said Sarah. 

" Don't pay no attention to them," said Esther. " If you 
knew as much about drunkards as I do, you'd want no telling 
to give them a wide berth. . . . Isn't the country lovely? 
Isn't the air soft and warm ? " 

" Oh, I don't want no more country. I'm that glad to get 
back to town. I wouldn't take another situation out of London 
if I was offered twenty a year." 

" But look," said Esther, " at the trees. I've hardly been 
in the country since I left Woodview, unless you call Dulwich 
the country — that's where Jackie was at nurse." 

The Cockney pilgrimage passed into a pleasant lane over- 
hung with chestnut and laburnum trees. The spring had 
been late, and the white blossoms stood up like candles — the 
yellow dropped like tassels, and the streaming sunlight filled 
the leaves with tints of pale gold, and their light shadows 
patterned the red earth of the pathway. But very soon this 
pleasant pathway debouched on a thirsting roadway where 



ESTHER WATERS. 259 

tired horses harnessed to heavy vehicles toiled up a long hill 
leading to the downs. The trees intercepted the view, and 
the blown dust whitened the foliage and the wayside grass 
now in possession of hawker and vagrant. The crowd 
made way for the traps; and the young men in blue and grey 
trousers, and their girls in white dresses, turned and watched 
the four horses bringing along the tall drag crowned with 
London fashion. There the unwieldy omnibus and the 
brake filled with fat girls in pink dresses and yellow hats, 
and there the spring cart drawn up under a hedge. The 
cottage gates were crowded with folk come to see London 
going to the Derby. Outhouses had been converted into 
refreshment bars, and from these came a smell of beer and 
oranges; further on there was a lamentable harmonium — 
a blind man singing hymns to its accompaniment, and a one- 
legged man holding his hat for alms ; and not far away there 
stood an earnest-eyed woman offering tracts, warning folk of 
their danger, beseeching them to retract their steps. 

At last the trees ceased and they found themselves on the 
hill-top in a glare of sunlight, on a space of worn ground where 
donkeys were tethered. 

" Is this the Derby ? " said Sarah. 

" I hope you're not disappointed ? " 

"No, dear; but where's all the people — the drags, the 
carriages ? " 

" We'll see them presently," said old John, and he volunteered 
some explanations. The white building was the Grand Stand. 
The winning-post was a little further this way. 

" Where do they start ? " said Sarah. 

" Over yonder, where you see that clump. They run through 
the furze right up to Tottenham Corner." 

A vast crowd swarmed over the opposite hill, and beyond the 
crowd the women saw a piece of open downland dotted with 
bushes, and rising in gentle inclination to a belt of trees which 
closed the horizon. " Where them trees are, that's Tattenham 
Corner" The words seemed to fill old John with enthusiasm, 
and he described how the horses came round this side of the 
trees. "They comes right down that 'ere 'ill — there's the dip 
— and they finishes opposite to where we is standing. Yonder, 
by Barnard's Ring." 
"■ " What, all among the people ? " said Sarah. 

" The police will get the people right back up the hill" 



260 ESTHER WATERS. 

" That's where we shall find William," said Esther. 

11 I'm getting a bit peckish, ain't you, dear ? He's got the 
luncheon-basket . . . but, lor', what a lot of people ! Look at 
that." 

What had attracted Sarah's attention was a boy walking 
through the crowd on a pair of stilts fully eight feet high. He 
uttered short warning cries from time to time, held out his 
wide trousers and caught pennies in his conical cap. Drags 
and carriages continued to arrive. The sweating horses were 
unyoked and grooms and helpers rolled the vehicles into 
position along the rails. Lackeys drew forth cases of wine and 
provisions, and the flutter of table-cloths had begun to attract 
vagrants, itinerant musicians, fortune-tellers, begging children. 
All these plied their trades around the fashion of grey frock- 
coats and silk sunshades. Along the rails rough fellows 
lay asleep; the place looked like a vast dormitory; they 
lay with their pot-hats over their faces, clay pipes sticking 
from under the brims, their brown red hands upon the grey 
grass. 

Suddenly old John pleaded an appointment; he was to 
meet a friend who would give him the very latest news 
respecting a certain horse; and Esther, Sarah, and Journey- 
man wandered along the course in search of William. Along 
the rails strangely-dressed men stood on stools, satchels and 
race-glasses slung over their shoulders, great bouquets in 
their button-holes. Each stood between two poles on which 
was stretched a piece of white-coloured linen, on which 
was inscribed their name in large gold letters. Sarah. read 
some of these names out: "Jack Hooper, Marylebone. All 
bets paid." " Tom Wood's famous boxing rooms, Epsom." 
" James Webster, Commission Agent, London." And these 
betting men bawled the prices from the top of their high stools 
and shook their satchels, which were filled with money, to 
attract custom. " What can I do for you to-day, sir ? " they 
shouted when they caught the eye of any respectably-dressed 
man. " On the Der-by, on the Der-by, I'll bet the Der-by. . . . 
To win or a place, to win or a place, to win or a place — seven 
to one bar two or three, seven to one bar two or three . . . 
the old firm, the old firm," — like so many challenging cocks, 
each trying to outshrill the other. 

Under the hillside in a quiet hollow had been pitched a 
large and commodious tent. Journeyman mentioned that it 



ESTHER WATERS. 26 1 

was the West London Gospel tent. He thought the parson 
would have it pretty well all to himself, and they stopped 
before a van filled with barrels of Waterford ales. A barrel 
had been taken from the van and placed on a small table; 
glasses of beer were being served to a thirsty crowd. All 
around were little canvas shelters, whence men shouted, 
" 'Commodation, 'commodation." 

The sun had risen high, and what clouds remained floated 
away like filaments of white cotton. The Grand Stand, 
dotted like a ceiling with flies, stood out distinct and 
harsh upon a burning plain of blue. The light beat 
fiercely upon the booths, the carriages, the vehicles, the 
11 rings," the various stands. The country around was lost in 
the haze and dazzle of the sunlight ; but a square mile of down- 
land fluttered with flags and canvas, and the great mob swelled, 
and smoked, and drank, shied sticks at Aunt Sally, and rode 
wooden horses. And through this crush of perspiring, shriek- 
ing humanity Journeyman, Esther, and Sarah sought vainly for 
William. The form. of the ground was lost in the multitude, 
and they could only tell by the strain in their limbs whether 
they were walking up or down hill. Sarah declared herself to 
be done up, and it was with difficulty that she was persuaded to 
persevere a little longer. At last Journeyman caught sight of 
the' bookmaker's square shoulders. 

" Well, so here you are. W 7 hat can I do for you, ladies — ten 
to one bar three or four. Will that suit you ? " 

" The luncheon-basket will suit us a deal better," said Sarah. 

At that moment a chap came up jingling two half-crowns in 
his hand. " What price the favourite ? " " Two to one," cried 
William. The two half-crowns were dropped into the satchel, 
and thus encouraged, William called out louder than ever, 
" The old firm, the old firm, don't forget the old firm." There 
was a smile on his lips while he halloaed, a cheery good-natured 
smile, which made him popular and brought him many a 
customer. M On the Der-by, on the Der-by, on the Der-by ! " 
All kinds and conditions of men came to make bets with him ; 
custom was brisk ; he could not join the women who were busy 
with the lunch-basket, but he and Teddy would be thankful 
for the biggest drink they could get them. " Ginger beer with 
a drop of whisky in it, that's about" it, Teddy ? " 

" Yes, guv'nor, that'll do for me. . . . We're getting pretty full 
on Dewberry, might come down a point I think." 



262 ESTHER WATERS. 

" All right, Teddy. . . . And if you'd cut us a couple each 
of strong sandwiches, — you can manage a couple, Teddy ? " 

" I think I can, guv'nor." 

There was a nice piece of beef in the basket, and Esther 
cut several large sandwiches, buttering the bread thickly and 
adding plenty of mustard. When she brought them over 
William bent down and whispered — 

" My own duck of a wife, there's no one like her." 

Esther blushed and laughed with pleasure, and every trace 
of the resentment for the suffering he had occasioned her 
dropped out of her heart. For the first time he was really her 
husband ; for the first time she felt that sense of unity in life 
which is marriage, and knew that henceforth he was the one 
thing that she had to live for. 

After luncheon Journeyman, who was making no way with 
Sarah, took his leave, pleading that he had some friends to 
meet in Barnard Ring. They were glad to be rid of him. 
Sarah had many a tale to tell; and while listening to the 
matrimonial engagements that had been broken off, Esther 
shifted her parasol from time to time to watch her tall gaunt 
husband. He shouted the odds, willing to bet against every 
horse, distributed tickets to the various folk that crowded 
round him, each with his preference, his prejudice, his be- 
lief in omens, in tips, or in the talent and luck of a favourite 
jockey. Sarah continued her cursive chatter regarding the 
places she had served in. She felt inclined for a snooze, 
but was afraid it would not look well. While hesitating she 
ceased speaking, and both women fell asleep under the shade 
of their parasols. It was the shallow glassy sleep of the open 
air, through which they divined easily the great blur that was 
the race-course. 

They could hear William's voice, and they heard a bell 
ring and shouts of " Here they come ! " Then a lull came, 
and their perceptions grew a little denser, and when they 
awoke the sky was the same burning blue-, and the multitude 
moved to and fro like puppets. 

Sarah was in no better temper after than before her sleep. 
"It's all very well for you," she said. "You have your 
husband to look after. . . . I'll never come to the Derby 
again without a young man. . . . I'm tired of sitting here, 
the grass is roasting. Come for a walk." 

They were two nice-looking English women of the lower 



ESTHER WATERS. 263 

classes, prettily dressed in light gowns with cheap sunshades 
in their cotton-gloved hands. Sarah looked at every young 
man with regretful eyes. In such moods acquaintanceships 
are made; and she did not allow Esther to shake off Bill 
Evans, who, just as if he had never been turned out of the 
bar of the "King's Head," came up with his familiar 
"Good morning, ma'am — lovely weather for the races." 
Sarah's sidelong glances at the blue Melton jacket and the 
billycock hat defined her feelings with sufficient explicitness, 
and it was not probable that any warning would have been 
heeded. Soon they were engaged in animated conversation, 
and Esther was left to follow them if she liked. 

She walked by Sarah's side quite ignored. Suddenly she 
was accosted by Fred Parsons. They were passing by 
the mission tent, and Fred was calling on the folk to leave 
the ways of Satan for those of Christ. Bill Evans was about 
to answer some brutal insult ; but seeing that " the Christian " 
knew Esther he checked himself in time. Esther stopped to 
speak to Fred, and Bill seized the opportunity to slip away 
with Sarah. 

" I didn't expect to meet you here, Esther." 

" I'm here with my husband. He said a little pleasure " 

" This is not innocent pleasure, Esther ; this is drunkenness 
and debauchery. I hope you'll never come again, unless you 
come with us," he said, pointing to some girls dressed as book- 
makers, with Salvation and Perdition written on the satchels 
hung round their shoulders. They sought to persuade the 
passers-by to come into the tent. "We shall be very glad 
to see you," they said, and they distributed mock racing-cards 
on which was inscribed news regarding certain imaginary 
racing. " The Paradise Plate for all comers," " The Salvation 
Stakes, an Eternity of Happiness added." 

Fred repeated his request. "I hope that next time you 
come here it will be with us ; you'll strive to collect some of 
Christ's lost sheep." 

" And my husband making a book yonder ? " 

An awkward silence intervened, and then he said — 

" Won't you come in, service is going on ? " 

Esther followed him. In the tent there were some benches, 
and on a platform a grey-bearded man with an anxious face 
spoke of sinners and redemption. Suddenly a harmonium 
began to play a hymn, and, standing side by side, Esther and 



264 ESTHER WATERS. 

Fred sang together. Prayer was so inherent in her that she 
felt no sense of incongruity, and had she been questioned she 
would have answered that it did not matter where we are, or 
what we are doing, we can always have God in our hearts. 

Fred followed her out. 

"You have not forgotten your religion, I hope?" 

"No, I never could forget that." 

"Then why do I find you in such company? You don't 
come here like us to find sinners." 

" I haven't forgotten God, but I must do my duty to my 
husband. It would be like setting myself up against my 
husband's business, and you don't think I ought to do that ? 
A wife that brings discord into the family is not a good wife, 
so I've often heard." 

" You always thought more of your husband than of Christ, 
Esther." 

" Each one must follow Christ as best he can ! It would 
be wrong of me to set myself against my husband " 

" So he married you," Fred answered bitterly. 

"Yes. You thought he'd desert me a second time; but 
he's been the best of husbands." 

11 1 place little reliance on those who are not with Christ. 
His love for you is not of the spirit. Let us not speak of him. 
I loved you very deeply, Esther. 1 would have brought you 
to Christ. . . . But perhaps you'll come to see us sometimes." 

" I do not forget Christ. He's always with me, and I believe 
you did care for me. I was sorry to break it off, you know I 
was. It was not my fault." 

"Esther, it was I who loved you." 

" You mustn't talk like that. I'm a married woman." 

" I mean no harm, Esther. I was only thinking of the past." 

" You must forget all that. . . . Good-bye ; I'm glad to have 
seen you, and that we said a prayer together." 

Fred didn't answer, and Esther moved away, wondering where 
she should find Sarah. 



ESTHER WATERS. 265 



XXXIII. 

The crowd shouted. She looked where the others looked, but 
saw only the burning blue with the white stand marked upon 
it. It was crowded like the deck of a sinking vessel, and 
Esther wondered at the excitement, the cause of which was 
hidden from her. She wandered to the edge of the crowd 
until she came to a chalk road where horses and mules were 
tethered. A little higher up she entered the crowd again, and 
came suddenly upon a switchback railway. Full of laughing 
and screaming girls it bumped over a middle hill, and then 
rose slowly till it reached the last summit. It was shot back 
again into the midst of its fictitious perils, and this mock 
voyaging was accomplished to the sound of music from a 
puppet orchestra. Bells and drums, a fife and a triangle, 
cymbals clashed mechanically, and a little soldier beat the 
time. Further on, under a striped awning, were the wooden 
horses. They were arranged so well that they rocked to 
and fro, imitating as nearly as possible the action of real 
horses. Esther watched the riders. A blue skirt looked like 
a riding habit, and a girl in a salmon pink leaned back in her 
saddle just as if she had been taught how to ride. A girl in a 
grey jacket encouraged a girl in white who rode a grey horse. 
But before Esther could make out for certain that the man in 
the blue Melton jacket was Bill Evans he had passed out of 
sight, and she had to wait until his horse came round the 
second time. At that moment she caught sight of the red 
poppies in Sarah's hat. 

The horses began to slacken speed. They went slower and 
slower, then stopped altogether. The riders began to dis- 
mount and Esther pressed through the bystanders, fearing she 
would not be able to overtake her friends. 



266 ESTHER WATERS. 

" Oh, here you are," said Sarah. " I thought I never should 
find you again. How hot it is ! " 

" Were you on in that ride ? Let's have another, all three 
of us. These three horses." 

Round and round they went, their steeds bobbing nobly up 
and down to the sound of fifes, drums, and cymbals. They 
passed the winning-post many times ; they had to pass it five 
times, and the horse that stopped nearest it won the prize. A 
long drawn-out murmur continuous as the sea, swelled up 
from the course, a murmur, which at last passed into words : 
"Here they come; blue wins, the favourite's beat." Esther 
paid little attention to these cries ; she did not understand 
them, they reached her indistinctly, and soon died away, 
absorbed in the strident music that accompanied the circling 
horses. These had now begun to slacken speed. . . . They 
went slower and slower. Sarah and Bill, who rode side by 
side, seemed like winning, but at the last moment they glided 
by the winning-post. Esther's steed stopped in time, and she 
was told to choose a china mug from a great heap. 

"You've all the luck to-day," said Bill. " Hayfield, who 
was backed all the winter, broke down a month ago. ... 2 to 
1 against Fly-leaf, 4 to 1 against Signet-Ring, 4 to 1 
against Dewberry, 10 to 1 against Vanguard, the winner 
at 50 to 1 offered. Your husband must have won a little 
fortune. Never was there such a day for the bookies." 

Esther said she was very glad, and was undecided which mug 
she should choose. At last she saw one on which "Jack" 
was written in gold letters. They then visited the peep-shows, 
and especially liked St. James' Park with the Horse Guards 
out on parade ; the Spanish bull-fight did not stir them, and 
Sarah couldn't find a single young man to her taste in the 
House of Commons. Among the performing birds they liked 
best a canary that climbed a ladder. Bill was attracted by the 
American strength-testers, and he gave an exhibition of his 
muscle to Sarah's very great admiration. They all had some 
shies at cocoa-nuts, and passed by J. Bilton's great bowling 
saloon without visiting it. Once more the air was rent with 
cries of " Here they come ! Here they come ! " Even the 
'commodation men left their canvas shelters and pressed 
forward inquiring which had won. A moment after a score of 
pigeons floated and flew through the blue air and then departed 
in different directions, some making straight for London, others 



ESTHER WATERS. 267 

for the blue mysterious evening that had risen about the Downs 
— the sun-baked Downs strewed with waste paper and covered 
with tipsy men and women, — a screaming and disordered 
animality. 

11 Well, so you've come back at last," said William. " The 
favourite was beaten. I suppose you know that a rank outsider 
won. But what about this gentleman ? " 

" Met these 'ere ladies on the 'ill an' been showing them 
over the course. No offence, I hope, guv'nor ? " 

William did not answer, and Bill took leave of Sarah in a 
manner that told Esther that they had arranged to meet again. 

" Where did you pick up that bloke ? " 

" He came up and spoke to us, and Esther stopped to speak 
to the parson." 

" To the parson. What do you mean ? " 

The circumstance was explained, and William asked them 
what they thought of the racing. 

" We didn't see no racing," said Sarah ; " we was on the 'ill 
on the wooden 'orses. Esther's 'orse won. She got a mug ; 
show the mug, Esther." 

" So you saw no Derby after all ? " said William. 

"Saw no racin'," said his neighbour; "ain't she won the 
cup ? " 

The joke was lost on the women, who only perceived that 
they were being laughed at. 

" Come up here, Esther," said William ; " stand on my box. 
The 'orses are just going up the course for the preliminary 
canter, — and you, Sarah, take Teddy's place. Teddy, get 
down, and let the lady up." 

11 Yes, guv'nor. Come up 'ere, ma'am." 

" And is those the 'orses ? " said Sarah. " They do seem 
small." 

The ringmen roared. " Not up to those on the 'ill, ma'am," 
said one. " Not such beautiful goers," said another. 

There were two or three false starts, and then looking through 
a multitude of hats Esther saw five or six thin greyhound-look- 
ing horses. They passed like shadows, flitted by; and she was 
sorry for the poor chestnut that trotted in among the crowd. 

This was the last race. Once more the favourite had been 
beaten ; there were no bets to pay, and the book-makers began 
to prepare for departure. It was the poor little clerks who 
were charged with the luggage. Teddy did not seem as if he 



268 ESTHER WATERS. 

would ever reach the top of the hill. With Esther and Sarah 
on either arm, AVilliam struggled with the crowd. It was hard 
to get through the block of carriages. Everywhere horses 
waited with their harness on, and Sarah was afraid of being bitten 
or kicked. A young aristocrat cursed them from the box seat, 
and the groom blew a blast as the drag rolled away. It was 
like the instinct of departure which takes a vast herd at a certain 
moment. The great landscape, half country, half suburb, 
glinted beneath the rays of a setting sun; and through the 
white dust, and the draught of the warm roads, the brakes and 
carriages, and every crazy vehicle, rolled towards London; 
orange-sellers, tract-sellers, thieves, vagrants, gipsies, made for 
their various quarters — roadside inns, outhouses, hayricks, 
hedges, or the railway station. Down the long hill the vast 
crowd made its way, humble pedestrians and carriage folk, 
altogether, as far as the cross-roads. At the " Spread Eagle " 
there would be stoppage for a parting drink, there the book- 
makers would change their clothes, and there division would 
happen in the crowd — half for the railway station, half for the 
London road. It was there that the traditional sports of the 
road began. A drag, with a band of exquisites armed with 
pea-shooters, peppering on costers who were getting angry, and 
threatening to drive over the leaders. A brake with two 
poles erected, and hanging on a string quite a line of minia- 
ture chamber-pots. A horse, with his fore-legs clothed in a 
pair of lady's drawers. Naturally unconscious of the garment, 
the horse stepped along so absurdly that Esther and Sarah 
thought they'd choke with laughter. 

At the station William halloaed to old John, whom 
he caught sight of on the platform. He had backed the 
winner — forty to one about Sultan. It was Ketley who had 
persuaded him to risk half-a-sovereign en the horse. Ketley 
was at the Derby ; he had met him on the course, and Ketley 
had told him a wonderful story about a packet of Turkish 
Delight. The omen had come right this time, and Journeyman 
took a back seat. 

" Say what you like," said William, " it is damned strange ; 
and if any one did find the way of reading them omens there 
would be an end of us bookmakers." He was only half in 
earnest, but he regretted he had not met Ketley. If he had 
only had a fiver on the horse, 200 to 5 ! 

They met Ketley at Waterloo, and every one wanted to hear 



ESTHER WATERS. 269 

from his own lips the story of the packet of Turkish Delight. 
So William proposed they should all come up to the " King's 
Head " for a drink. The omnibus took them as far as 
Piccadilly Circus; and there the weight of his satchel 
tempted William to invite them to dinner, regardless of 
expense. 

" Which is the best dinner here ? " he asked the com- 
missionaire. 

"The East Room is reckoned the best, sir." 

The fashion of the shaded candles and the little tables, and 
the beauty of an open evening bodice and the black and white 
elegance of the young men at dinner, took the servants by 
surprise, and made them feel that they were out of place in 
such surroundings. Old John looked like picking up a napkin 
and asking at the nearest table if anything was wanted. Ketley 
proposed the grill room, but William, who had had a glass 
more than was good for him, declared that he didn't care a 
damn — that he could buy up the whole blooming show. The 
head-waiter suggested a private room ; it was abruptly declined, 
and William took up the menu. " Bisque Soup, what's that ? 
You ought to know, John." John shook his head. " Ris de 

Veau ! That reminds me of when " William stopped 

and looked round to see if his former wife was in the room. 
Finally the head-waiter was cautioned to send them up the 
best dinner in the place. Allusion was made to the dust and 
heat. Journeyman suggested a sluice, and they inquired their 
way to the lavatories. Esther and Sarah were away longer 
than the men, and stood dismayed at the top of the room 
till William called for them. The other guests seemed a little 
terrified, and the head-waiter, to reassure them, mentioned that 
it was Derby Day. 

William had ordered champagne, but it had not proved to 
any one's taste except perhaps to Sarah, whom it rendered 
unduly hilarious; nor did the delicate food afford much 
satisfaction ; the servants played with it, and left it on their 
plates ; and it was not until William ordered up the saddle of 
mutton and carved it himself that the dinner began to take 
hold of the company. Esther and Sarah enjoyed the ices, and 
the men stuck to the cheese, a fine Stilton, which was much 
appreciated. Coffee no one cared for, and the little glasses of 
brandy only served to augment the general tipsiness. William 
hiccupped out an order for a bottle of Jamieson eight-year-old ; 



270 ESTHER WATERS. 

but pipes were not allowed, and cigars were voted tedious, so 
they adjourned to the bar, where they were free to get as drunk 

as they pleased. William said, " Now let's 'ear the bio the 

bloody omen that put ye on to Sultan — that blood — packet 
of Turkish Delight." 

" Most extra most extraordinary thing I ever heard in 

my life, so yer 'ere?" said Ketley, staring at William and 
trying to see him distinctly. 

William nodded. " How was it ? We want to 'ear all about 
it. Do hold yer tongue, Sarah. I beg pardon, Ketley is 
go — going to tell us about the bloody omen. Thought you'd 
like to he — ar, old girl." 

Allusion was made to a little girl coming home from school, 
and a piece of paper on the pavement. But Ketley could not 
concentrate his thoughts on the main lines of the story, and 
it was lost in various dissertations. But the company was 
none the less pleased with it, and willingly declared that 
bookmaking was only a game for mugs. Get on a winner 
at forty to one, and you could make as much in one bet 
as a poor devil of a bookie could in six months, fagging 
from race-course to race-course. They drank, argued, and 
quarrelled, until Esther noticed that Sarah was looking very 
pale. Old John was quite helpless ; Journeyman, who seemed 
to know what he was doing, very kindly promised to look 
after him. 

Ketley assured the commissionaire that he was not drunk ; 
and when they got outside Sarah felt obliged to step aside ; she 
came back, saying that she felt a little better. 

They stood on the pavement's edge, a little puzzled by the 
brilliancy of the moonlight. The great crowd of the race- 
course seemed to have gathered together at the Circus. 
Women had come up from all parts. The circular line of 
Regent Street looked like an amphitheatre; not a breath, 
only a blue, glassy stillness. The dresses of the women 
gleamed through the crowd that filled the opposite pavement. 
Hansom cabs loitered, soliciting fares. 



ESTHER WATERS. 27 1 



XXXIV. 

Three men followed out of the bar-room. They were agreed 
regarding the worthlessness of life. One said, " I don't think 
much of it ; all I live for is beer and women." The phrase 
caught on William's ear, and he said, " Quite right, old mate," 
and he held out his hand to Bill Evans. " Beer and women, 
it always comes round to that in the end, but we mustn't let 
them hear us say it." The men shook hands, and Bill promised 
to see Sarah safely home. Esther tried to interpose, but 
William could not be made to understand, and Sarah and 
Bill drove away together in a hansom. Sarah dozed off imme- 
diately on his shoulder, and it was difficult to awaken her when 
the cab stopped before a house whose respectability took Bill 
by surprise. He looked into the basement and up at the 
attic, and was particularly impressed by the palms in the 
drawing-room windows. 

"You seem well set up here," he said; "have you got the key?" 
" Father won't let me have one ; we must ring him up. . . . 
Oh, I'm so tired, Bill, I don't know what to do with myself." 
" There's my place, if you don't like to ring him up." 
"No, Bill, I couldn't, I'm feeling that bad." 
Bill rang again and again. 

" Father '11 be that wild — you'll wake up the lodgers. . . ." 
" I can't help that ; I can't wake one without the other." 
At last a tall man in shirt and trousers opened the door. 
" What's all this noise about ? Oh, it's you, Sarah." 
" Yes, father." 

" What's the matter ? " he said, taking her by the shoulders. 
"Drunk, by God!" 

" She ain't drunk ; it is the 'eat of the day that done it." 
" Who're you, bringing back my daughter at this hour?" 
"Who're you, if it comes to that? If I hadn't brought her 
back she'd have been in the street." 

" Oh, father, don't. ... It was Mr. Latch who sent me 
home with him. We've been dining at the ' Criterion.' " 



2^2 ESTHER WATERS. 

" Dining at the * Criterion,' and coming back at one o'clock 
in the morning in a 'ansom cab. Yer sister, I should 'ave 
thought, ought to have been a warning to you." 

"It wasn't my fault, father. We've been dining with Mr. 
and Mrs. Latch." Mr. Tucker took a step forward to catch 
better sight of the man's face, and Sarah availed herself of the 
opportunity to slip past her father into the house. 

"And you, 'ave you been dining too with the Latches? 
Nice company they seem to keep. ... I think we've met 
before." 

" Not what I can remember of. And I don't much care if 
we don't meet again. A nice sort of way to thank a fellow for 
the trouble 'e 'as taken. Next time I'll leave your daughter 
where I find her." Bill went away cursing, and Mr. Tucker 
remained on the doorstep looking after him and repeating, 
" I'm sure I've seen 'im before." 

The Tuckers had just come to live in Bloomsbury. Tucker 
was an ex-policeman. He and his wife had owned a house in 
Portugal Street, which they had let out in unfurnished rooms. 
When the street was rebuilt they had received compensation, 
and with this money they had furnished their present house, 
and their rooms were let principally to medical students. Mrs. 
Tucker and a general servant looked after the cooking ; Lizzie, 
their second daughter, did the housework. One of the 
results of the house in Bloomsbury was a child by one of 
the medical students. The young man had made an allow- 
ance which had been considered adequate, arid Mr. and Mrs. 
Tucker had undertaken the bringing up of their grandchild. 
But Mr. and Mrs. Tucker would have nothing to do with 
Lizzie's second child, although the father, a waiter in a 
neighbouring restaurant, had been prosecuted and forced 
to subscribe towards its support. " A misfortune may happen 
to any girl," said Mrs. Tucker, "and my daughter's my 
daughter, but I'll have nothing to do with second children." 
And when it became apparent that Lizzie was a third time 
with child Mr. Tucker said he'd have no more to do with her. 
" To see her come waddling in as big as a house was a dis- 
grace ; quite enough," he said, " to get the place a bad name, 
and to save the reputation of his house he turned her out 
of doors." Her work might very well go to Sarah, who had 
just come home from situation. Sarah had always been able 
to get her own living; she had put a bit of money by, and Mr. 



ESTHER WATERS. 273 

Tucker was full of admiration for his second daughter. 
So it was a sore grief to him to see her brought home 
at one o'clock in the morning decidedly the worse for liquor. 
Mrs. Tucker excused Sarah as she had excused Lizzie. Mr. 
Tucker did not answer, but he seemed disposed to accept 
this view of the matter. And Sarah's offence would have 
been easily forgiven her if she had not shown so much 
determination in sticking up for Bill Evans when her father 
said he was a bad lot if ever there was one. Not a word 
would she hear said against him, and for a week the 
Tucker family lived in fierce words and passionate expostu- 
lation. Lizzie, who slipped in one day when her father was 
out, was very wroth when she found that her sister had taken 
her place, and had it not been for her condition of body Sarah 
might have fared badly at her rude hands. One evening Mr. 
Tucker warned Bill Evans never to set his foot on his door- 
step again, and the altercations were very violent. 

" We don't want none of your sort about here. ..." 

" What do you know about my sort ? '' 

"Plenty; leastways I ought to after twenty years in the 
E division." 

" So you're a copper, are you ? I might 'ave known it. . . . 
My sort don't know nothing of yer E division, but I knows 
your sort, them that pays 'alf-a-crown a week to be let alone. 
. . . Ver pension, it is out of their pockets." 

"That's enough; don't you set your foot on my doorstep 
again, that's all." 

Mr. Tucker came down to the kitchen declaring that 
daughters was a curse: "Illegitimate children and gin, that 
was about all they was good for." Beer or gin, which was 
it ? Sarah admitted that she had had a little of both, and 
her mother had to help her upstairs. Next morning she was 
ill and repentant. Her father came up to her room and gave 
her a good talking to. She pleaded that it was not her fault, 
she did not care for the beastly stuff. It was that beast Bill 
that forced it upon her. She believed that he had made her 
drunk on purpose, and promised that she would see him 
no more. It was easy for her to promise, for Bill had 
seriously frightened her. She had been struck by the number 
of appointments he had with particular friends in public- 
houses. He was always whispering across the bar, and 
he left messages with the potman or the vagrant outside 

18 



274 ESTHER WATERS. 

who looked after the cabs. Yesterday he and one of his chaps 
had gone off together in a cab with a young fellow with whom 
they had just scraped acquaintance, and Sarah had been 
left to make her way home as best she could. There were 
many other things she did not like about Bill, and she 
promised her father to see him no more. But at odd moments 
remembrance, like a sob, caught her in the throat, and then 
she closed her eyes in a little sickness of desire. The mood 
passed, but it came again and again until she wearied of the 
irritation of her life. 

One day her father and mother had to go down to the 
country on business. They would not return until late in the 
evening. Sarah thought instantly of Bill. Her face must have 
betrayed her, for her father said he would not leave her the 
key. He wished her to remain within doors and look after the 
house. Sarah promised to do this. She did not want to see 
Bill again, and she thought that it was just as well that the 
father had taken the key with him. Now there was no 
temptation to resist; she'd have to remain in. But Sarah 
did not reckon the ache of desire that would fill a lonely after- 
noon, with no real work to do, only the mending of a dress 
to distract her thoughts. Remembrance pressed upon her, 
and she put the skirt aside and walked to the open door ; 
she laid her hand upon it; for the room seemed to go round, 
and there came upon her a sudden withdrawal of all will. She 
hadn't the key, she wouldn't be able to get back, but she must 
see Bill. She'd wait on the stairs, she wouldn't think about 
how she was to get back. She must see him. So she wrote 
telling him where to meet her. Once the letter had been sent 
off she seemed easier. She dressed quickly and went out, 
her thoughts anticipating eagerly the pleasure of a long after- 
noon with him. 

And it turned out a pleasant afternoon, only a little spoilt by 
the constantly recurring thought of her meeting with her 
father on the doorstep. She didn't believe that he'd take 
her in. ... If anything happened — if the house were 
robbed in her absence, what would she say or do? Bill 
suggested that her father would never believe that she was 
concerned in a robbery. Such a possibility had not occurred 
to her. She was now seriously frightened, and Bill had little 
difficulty in persuading her to leave her home and come and 
live with him. 



ESTHER WATERS. 275 



XXXV. 

Things went well enough as long as her savings lasted. When 
her money was gone Bill returned to the race-course in the 
hope of doing a bit of welshing. Soon after he was "wanted" 
by the police ; they escaped to Belgium, and it devolved on 
Sarah to support him. The hue and cry over, they came back 
to London. 

She had been sitting up for him j he had come home exas- 
perated and disappointed. A row soon began; she thought 
that he would strike her. But he refrained, for fear, perhaps, 
of the other lodgers. He took her instead by the arm and 
dragged her down the broken staircase. He opened the 
door and pushed her into the court. She heard the retreating 
footsteps, and saw the black walls sharp upon the grey sky. 
The clocks had just struck two. She lingered a minute, think- 
ing he might relent, and then wandered out of the slum 
into Drury Lane. A cat slunk through a grating, and she 
wished that she too could escape from the light into the 
dark. 

A few belated women still lingered in the Strand, and 
the city stood up like a prison hard and stark in the cold 
penetrating light of morning. She sat upon a pillar's base, 
her eyes turned towards the cabman's shelter. The horses 
munched in their nose-bags, and the pigeons came down 
from their roosts. She was dressed in an old black dress, her 
hands lay upon her knees, and the pose expressed so perfectly 
the despair and wretchedness in her soul that a young man in 
evening clothes, who had looked sharply at her as he passed, 
turned and came back to her, and he asked her if he could 
assist her. She answered, "Thank you, sir." He slipped a 
shilling into her hand. She was too broken-hearted to look 
up in his face, and he walked away wondering what was her 



2/6 ESTHER WATERS. 

story. The disordered red hair, the thin, freckled face was 
expressive, and so too was the movement of her body when 
she got up and walked, not knowing and not caring where 
she was going. There was sensation of the river in her 
thoughts; the river drew her, and she indistinctly remembered 
that she would find relief there if she chose to accept that relief. 
The southern sky was faintly rose, and behind Blackfriars 
Bridge and St. Paul's the rose passed into a pale cream. The 
high tide lapped the embankment ; the water was blue beneath 
the sunrise, and the cold blue water offered an end to her 
life's trouble. She could not go on living. She could not bear 
with her life any longer, and yet she knew that she would not 
drown herself that morning. There was not enough will in 
her to drown herself. She was merely half dead with grief. 
He had turned her out, he had said that he never wanted 
to see her again, but that was because he had been unlucky; 
she ought to have gone to bed and not waited up for him ; he 
didn't know what he was doing; so long as he didn't care 
for another woman there was hope that he might come back 
to her. The spare trees rustled their leaves in the bright 
dawn air, and she sat down on a bench and watched the 
lamps going out, and the river changing from blue to brown. 
Hours passed, and the same thoughts came and went, until 
with sheer weariness of thinking she fell asleep. 

She was awakened by the policeman, and she once more 
continued her walk. The omnibuses had begun; women were 
coming from market with baskets on their arms; she wondered 
if their lovers and husbands were unfaithful to them, if they 
would be received with blows or knocks when they returned. 
Her slightest mistakes had often, it seemed, merited a blow; 
and God knows she had striven to pick out the piece of 
bacon that she thought he would like, and it was not her fault 
that she couldn't get any money nowhere. Why was he cruel 
to her? He never would find another woman to care for him 
more than she did. . . Esther had a good husband, Esther had 
always been lucky. The house wouldn't open much before nine, 
and it had just struck seven. Two hours more to wait, and she 
felt so tired, so tired. She sat down on a doorstep ; the milk- 
women were calling their ware — those lusty short-skirted women 
that bring an air of country into the meanest alley. 

But an air of midnight vice still hung about the Haymarket. 
She turned up Shaftesbury Avenue, and from the beginning of 



ESTHER WATERS. 277 

Dean Street she watched to see if the shutters were yet 
down. She thought they were, and then saw that she was 
mistaken. 1 here was nothing to do but to wait, and on the 
steps of the Royalty Theatre she waited. The sun was shining, 
and she watched the cab horses, until the potboy came 
through and began cleaning the street lamp. She didn't 
care to ask him any questions; dressed as she was, he might 
answer her rudely. She wanted to see Esther first. Esther 
would pity and help her. So she did not go directly to 
the " King's Head," but went up the street a little way and 
came back. The boy's back was turned to her; she peeped 
through the doors. There was no one in the bar, she 
must go back to the steps of the theatre. A number 
of children were playing there, and they did not make way 
for her to sit down. She was too weary to argue the point, 
and walked up and down the street. When she looked through 
the doors a second time Esther was in the bar. 

" Is that you, Sarah ? " 

" Yes, it is me." 

'' Then come in. . . . How is it that we've not seen you all 
this time? What's the matter? " 

" I've been out all night. Bill put me out of doors this 
morning, and I've been walking about ever since." 

" Bill put you out of doors? I don't understand." 

"You know Bill Evans, the man we met on the race-course, 
the day we went to the Derby. ... It began there. He took 
me home after your dinner at the ' Criterion.' ... It has 
been going on ever since." 

4 'Good Lord ! . . . Tell me about it" 

Leaning against the partition that separated the bars, Sarah 
told how she had left her home and went to live with him. 

" We got on pretty well at first, but the police was after 
him, and we made off to Belgium. There we was very hard 
up, and I had to go out on the streets." 

" He made you do that ? " 

" He couldn't starve, could he ? " 

The women looked at each other, and then Sarah continued 
her story. She told how they had come to London, penniless. 
"I think he wants to turn honest," she said, "but luck's been 
dead against him. . . . It's that difficult for one like him, and 
he's been in work, but he can't stick to it; and now I don't 
know what he's doing, no good I fancy. Last night I got 



2;8 ESTHER WATERS. 

anxious and couldn't sleep, so I sat up. It was about two 
when he came in. We had a row, and he dragged me down- 
stairs and he put me out. He said he never wanted to see 
my ugly face again. I don't think I'm as bad as that j I've led 
a hard life and am not what I used to be, but it was he who 
made me what I am. Oh, it don't matter now, it can't be 
helped, it is all over with me. I don't care what becomes of 
me, only I thought I'd like to come and tell you. We was 
always friends." 

" You mustn't give way like that, old girl. You must keep 
yer pecker up. You're dead beat. . . . You've been walking 
about all night, no wonder. You must come and have some 
breakfast with us." 

" I should like a cup of tea, Esther. I never touches spirits 
now. I got over that." 

" Come into the parlour. You'll be better when you've had 
breakfast. We'll see what we can do for you." 

" Oh, Esther, not a word of what I've been telling you to 
your husband. I don't want to get Bill into trouble. He'd 
kill me. Promise me not to mention a word of it. I oughtn't 
to have told you. I was so tired that I didn't know what 
I was saying." 

There was plenty to eat — fried fish, a nice piece of steak, 
tea and coffee. " You seem to live pretty well," said Sarah. 
"It must be nice to have a servant of one's own. I suppose 
you're doing pretty well here." 

" Yes, pretty well, — if it wasn't for William's health." 

" What's the matter ? Ain't he well ? " 

" He's been very poorly lately. It's very trying work going 
about from race-course to race-course, standing in the mud 
and wet all day long. . . . He caught a bad cold last winter 
and was laid up with inflammation of the lungs, and I don't 
think he ever quite got over it." 

" Don't he go no more to race meetings ? " 

" He hasn't been to a race meeting since the beginning of 
the winter. It was one of them nasty steeple-chase meetings 
that laid him up." 

" Do 'e drink ? " 

" He's never drunk, — but he takes too much. Spirits don't 
suit him. He thought he could do what he liked, great 
strong-built fellow that he is, but he's found out his mis- 
take." 



ESTHER WATERS. 279 

11 He does his betting in London now, I suppose ? " 

" Yes," said Esther, hesitating — " when he has any to do. 
I want him to give it up ; but trade is bad in this neighbour- 
hood, leastways with us, and he don't think we could do 
without it." 

11 It's very hard to keep it dark ; some one's sure to crab it 
and bring the police down on you." 

Esther did not answer ; the conversation paused, and William 
entered. " Holloa ! is that you, Sarah ? We didn't know 
what had become of you all this time." He noticed that she 
looked like one in trouble, and was very poorly dressed. She 
noticed that his cheeks were thinner than they used to be, and 
that his broad chest had sunk, and that there seemed to be 
strangely little space between it and his back. Then in brief 
phrases, interrupting each other frequently, the women told 
the story. William said — 

" I knew he was a bad lot. I never liked to see him inside 
my bar." 

" I thought," said Esther, " that Sarah might remain here 
for a time." 

" I can't have that fellow coming round my place." 

" There's no fear of his coming after me. He don't want to 
see my ugly face again. Well, let him try to find some one 
who will do for him all I have done." 

" Until she gets a situation," said Esther. " I think that'll 
be the best, — for you to stop here until you get a situation." 

" And what about a character ? " 

" You needn't say much about what you've been doing this 
last twelve months ; if many questions are asked you can say 
you've been stopping with us. But you mustn't see that brute 
again. If he ever comes into that 'ere bar, I'll give him a 
piece of my mind. I'd give him more than a piece of my 
mind if I was the man I was a twelvemonth ago." William 
coughed, and Esther looked at him anxiously. 



286 ESTHER WATERS. 



XXXVI. 

Lacking a parlour on the ground-floor for the use of special 
customers, William had arranged a room upstairs where they 
could smoke and drink. There were tables in front of the 
windows and chairs against the walls. In the middle of the 
room was a bagatelle board. 

When William left off going to race-courses he had intended 
to refrain from taking money across the bar and to do all his 
betting business in this room. He thought that it would be 
safer. But as his customers multiplied he found that he could 
not ask them all upstairs; it attracted more attention than 
to take the money quietly across the bar. Nevertheless the 
room upstairs had proved a success. A man spent more 
money if he had a room where he could sit quietly among 
his friends than he would seated on a high stool in a public 
bar, jostled and pushed about; so it had come to be con- 
sidered as a sort of club-room ; and a large part of the 
neighbourhood came there to read the papers, to hear and 
discuss the news. And specially useful it had proved to 
Journeyman and Stack. Neither was now in employment ; 
they were now professional backers; and from daylight to 
dark they wandered from public-house to public-house, from 
tobacconist to barber's shop, in the search of tips, on the 
quest of stable information regarding the health of the horses 
and their trials. But the room upstairs at the " King's 
Head" was the centre of their operations. Stack was the 
indefatigable tipster, Journeyman was the scientific student 
of public form. His memory was prodigious, and it enabled 
him to note an advantage in the weights which would escape 
an ordinary observer. He often picked out horses which, if 
they did not actually win, nearly always stood at a short price 
in the betting before the race. 



ESTHER WATERS. 28 1 

The "King's Head" was crowded during the dinner-hour. 
Barbers and their assistants, cabmen, scene-shifters, if there 
was a matinee at the theatre, servants out of situation and 
servants escaped from their service for an hour, petty shop- 
keepers, the many who grow weary of the scant livelihood that 
work brings them, came there. Eleven o'clock ! In another hour 
the bar and the room upstairs would be crowded. At present 
the room was empty, and Journeyman had taken advantage of 
the quiet time to do a bit of work at his handicap. All the 
racing of the last three years lay within his mind's range ; he 
recalled at will every trifling selling race ; hardly ever was he 
obliged to refer to the Racing Calendar. Wanderer had beaten 
Brick at ten pounds. Snow Queen had beaten Shoemaker at 
four pounds, and Shoemaker had beaten Wanderer at seven 
pounds. The problem was further complicated by the suspicion 
that Brick could get a distance of ground better than Snow 
Queen. Journeyman was undecided. He stroked his short 
brown moustache with his thin hairy hand, and gnawed the end 
of his pen. In this moment of barren reflection Stack came 
into the room. 

"Still at yer 'andicap, I see," said Stack. "How does it 
work out ? " 

" Pretty well," said Journeyman. " But I don't think it will 
be one of my best ; there is some pretty hard nuts to crack." 

" Which are they ? " said Stack. Journeyman brightened up, 
and he proceeded to lay before Stack's intelligence what he 
termed "a knotty point in collateral running." 

Stack listened with attention, and thus encouraged, Journey- 
man proceeded to point out certain distributions of weight 
which he said seemed to him difficult to beat. 

" Any one what knows the running would say there wasn't 
a pin to choose between them at the weights. If this was the 
real 'andicap I'd bet drinks all round that fifteen of these 
twenty would accept. And that's more than any one will be 
able to say for Courtney's 'andicap. The weights will be out 
to-morrow, we shall see." 

"What do you say to 'alf a pint," said Stack, "and we'll go 
steadily through your 'andicap ? You've nothing to do for the 
next 'alf-hour." 

Journeyman's dingy face lit up. When the potboy appeared 
in answer to the bell he was told to bring up two half-pints, and 
Journeyman read out the weights. Every now and then he 



282 ESTHER WATERS. 

stopped to explain his reasons for what might seem to be super- 
ficial, an unmerited severity, or an undue leniency. It was not 
usual for Journeyman to meet with so sympathetic a listener; 
he had often been made to feel that his handicapping was un- 
necessary, and he now noticed, and with much pleasure, that 
Stack's attention seemed to increase rather than to diminish as 
he approached the end. When he had finished Stack said, " I 
see you've given six-seven to Ben Jonson. Tell me why you 
did that ? " 

" He was a good 'orse once ; he's broken down and aged ; 
he can't be trained, so six-seven seems just the kind of weight 
to throw him in at. You couldn't give him less, however old 
and broken down he may be. He was a good horse when he 
won the Great Ebor Grand Cup." 

" Do yer think if they brought him to the post as fit and 
well as he was the day he won the Ebor that he'd win ? " 

" What, fit and well as he was when he won the Great Ebor, 
and with six-seven on his back ? He'd walk away with it." 

" You don't think any of the three-year-olds would have a 
chance with him? A Derby winner with seven stones on 
his back might beat him." 

"Yes, but nothing short of that. Even then old Ben would 
make a race of it. A nailing good horse once. A little 
brown horse about fifteen two, as compact as a leg of 
Welsh mutton. . . . But there's no use in thinking of him. 
They've been trying for years to train him. Didn't they 
used to get the flesh off him in a Turkish bath? That 
was Fulton's notion. He used to say that it didn't matter 
'ow you got the flesh off so long as you got it off. 
Every pound of flesh off the lungs is so much wind, he 
used to say. But the Turkish bath trained horses came 
to post limp as old rags. If a 'orse 'asn't the legs you can't 
train him. Every pound of flesh yer take off yer must put a 
pound of 'ealth on. They'll do no good with old Ben, unless 
they've found out a way of growing on him a pair of new fore- 
legs. The old ones won't do for my money." 

" But do you think that Courtney will take the same view of 
his capabilities as you do — do you think he'll let him off as 
easily as you have ? " 

" He can't give him much more. . . . The 'orse is bound 
to get in at seven stone, rather under than over." 

" I'm glad to 'ear yer say so, for I know you've a headpiece, 



ESTHER WATERS. 283 

and 'as all the running in there." Stack tapped his forehead. 
" Now I'd like to ask you if there's any three-year-olds that 
would be likely to interfere with him ? " 

" Derby and Leger winners will get from eight stone to 
eight stone ten, and three-year-olds ain't no good over the 
Cesarewitch course with more than eight on their backs." 

The conversation paused. Surprised at Stack's silence, 
Journeyman said — 

" Is there anything up ? Have you heard anything particular 
about old Ben ? " 

Stack bent forward. '' Yes, I've heard something, and 
I'm making inquiries." 

" How did you hear it ? " 

Stack drew his chair a little closer. " I've been up at 
Chalk Farm, the * Yarborough Arms ' ; you know, where the 
'buses stop. Bob Barrett does a deal of business up there 
He pays the landlord's rent for the use of the bar — Wednes 
days, Fridays, and Saturdays is his days. Charley Grove bets 
there Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, but it is Bob that 
does the biggest part of the business. They say he's taken 
as much as j£> 2 ° m a morning. You know Bob, a great big 
man, eighteen stun if he's an ounce. He is a warm 'un, can 
put it on thick." 

"I know him ; he do tell fine stories about the girls ; he 
has the pick of the neighbourhood, wears a low hat, no higher 
than that, with a big brim. I know him. I've heard that 
he 'as moved up that way. Used at one time to keep a 
tobacconist's shop in Great Portland Street." 

" That's him," said Stack. " I thought you'd have heard 
of him." 

" There ain't many about that I've not heard of. Not that 
I likes the man much. There was a girl I knew — she wouldn't 
hear his name mentioned. But he lays fair prices, and does, 
I believe, a big trade." 

"'As a nice 'ome at Brixton, keeps a trap; his wife's as 
pretty a woman as you could wish to lay eyes on. I've seen 
her with him at Kempton." 

" You was up there this morning?" 

" Yes." 

" It wasn't Bob Barrett that gave you the tip ? " 

"Not likely." The men laughed, and then Stack said — 

11 You know Bill Evans ? You've seen him here, always 



284 ESTHER WATERS. 

wore a blue Melton jacket and billycock hat ; a dark, stout, 
good-looking fellow ; generally had something to sell, or pawn- 
tickets that he would part with for a trifle." 

" Yes ; I know the fellow. We met him down at Epsom 
one Derby day. Sarah Tucker, a friend of the missis, was 
dead gone on him." 

"Yes, she went to live with him. There was a row, and 
now, I believe, they're together again ; they was seen out 
walking. They're friends anyhow. Bill has been away all 
the summer, tramping. A bad lot, but one of them sort 
often hears of a good thing." 

" So it was from Bill Evans that you heard it? " 

" Yes, it was from Bill. He has just come up from East- 
bourne, where he 'as been about on the Downs a great deal. 
I don't know if it was the 'orses he was after, but in the 
course of his proceedings he heard from a shepherd that 
Ben Jonson was doing seven hours' walking exercise a day. 
This seemed to have fetched Bill a bit. Seven hours a day 
walking exercise do seem a bit odd, and being at the same 
time after one of the servants in the training stable — as pretty 
a bit of goods as he ever set eyes on, so Bill says — he thought 
he'd make an inquiry or two about all this walking exercise. 
One of the lads in the stable is after the girl too, so Bill 
found out very soon all he wanted to know. As you says 
the 'orse is dicky on 'is fore-legs, that is the reason of all 
the walking exercise." 

"And they thinks they can bring him fit to the post and 
win the Cesarewitch with him by walking him all day ? " 

" I don't say they don't gallop him at all ; they do gallop 
him, but not as much as if his legs was all right." 

"That won't do. I don't believe in a 'orse winning the 
Cesarewitch that ain't got four sound legs, and old Ben ain't 
got more than two." 

" He's had a long rest, and they say he is sounder than 
ever he was since he won the Great Ebor. They don't say 
he'd stand no galloping, but they don't want to gallop him 
more than's absolutely necessary on account of the suspensory 
ligament ; it ain't the back sinew, but the suspensory ligament. 
Their theory is this, that it don't so much matter about bring- 
ing him quite fit to the post, for he's sure to stay the course ; 
he'd do that three times over. What they says is this, that 
if he gets in with seven stone, and we brings him well and 



ESTHER WATERS. 28 5 

three parts trained, there ain't no 'orse in England that can 
stand up before him. They've got another in the race, Laurel 
Leaf, to make the running for him ; it can't be too strong for 
old Ben. You say to yourself that he may get let off with six- 
seven. If he do there'll be tons of money on him. He'll be 
backed at the post at five to one. Before the weights come 
out they'll lay a hundred to one on the field in any of the big 
clubs. I wouldn't mind putting a quid on him if you'll join 
me." 

" Better wait until the weights come out," said Journeyman. 
"For if it happened to come to Courtney's ears that old 
Ben could be trained he'd clap seven-ten on him without 
a moment's hesitation." 

" You think so ? " said Stack. 

11 1 do," said Journeyman. 

"But you agree with me that if he got let off with 
anything less than seven stone, and be brought fit, or there- 
abouts, to the post, that the race is a moral certainty for him ? " 

"A thousand to a brass farthing." 

" Mind, not a word." 

" Is it likely?" 

The conversation paused. Journeyman said, "You've not 
seen my 'andicap for the Cambridgeshire. I wonder what 
you'd think of that ? " Stack said he would be glad to see it 
another time, and suggested they should go downstairs. 

" I'm afraid the police is in," said Stack when he opened 
the door. 

" Then we'd better stop where we are ; I don't want to 
be took to the station." 

They listened for some moments, holding the door ajar. 

" It ain't the police," said Stack, " but a row about some 
bet. Latch had better be careful." 

The cause of the uproar was a tall young English workman 
whose beard was pale gold, and whose teeth were white. 
He wore a rough handkerchief tied round his handsome throat. 
His eyes were glassy with drink, and his comrades strove to 
quieten him. 

"Leave me alone," he exclaimed; "the bet was ten half- 
crowns to one. I won't stand being welshed." 

William's face flushed up. " Welshed ! " he said. " No one 
speaks in this bar of welshing." He would have sprung over 
the counter, but Esther held him back. 



286 ESTHER WATERS. 

" I know what I'm talking about ; you let me alone," said 
the young workman, and he struggled out of the hands of his 
friends. " The bet was ten half-crowns to one." 

" Don't mind what he says, guv'nor." 

"Don't mind what I says." For a moment it seems as if 
the friends were about to come to blows, but the young man's 
perceptions suddenly clouded, and he said, " In this blo-ody 
bar last Monday . . . horse backed in Tattersall's at twelve to 
one taken and offered." 

"He don't know what he's talking about; but no one 
must accuse me of welshing in this 'ere bar." 

"No offence, guv'nor; mistakes will occur." 

William could not help laughing, and he sent Teddy upstairs 
for Monday's paper. He pointed out that eight to one was being 
asked for about the horse on Monday afternoon at Tattersall's. 
The stage doorkeeper and a scene-shifter had just come over 
from the theatre, and had managed to force their way into the 
jug and bottle entrance. Esther and Charles had been selling 
beer and spirits as fast as they could draw it, but the disputed 
bet had caused the company to forget their glasses. 

"Just one more drink," said the young man. "Take the 
ten half-crowns out in drinks, guv'nor, that's good enough. 
What do you say, guv'nor ? " 

"What, ten half-crowns?" William answered angrily. 
"Haven't I shown you that the 'orse was backed at Tattersall's 
the day you made the bet at eight to one." 

" Ten to one, guv'nor." 

" I've not time to go on talking. . . . You're interfering with 
my business. You must get out of my bar." 

"Who'll put me out?" 

" Charles, go and fetch a policeman." 

At the word "policeman " the young man seemed to recover 
his wits somewhat, and he answered, " You'll bring in no bloody 
policeman. Fetch a policeman ! and what about your bloom- 
ing betting — what will become of it?" William looked round to 
see if there was any in the bar whom he could not trust. He 
knew every one present, and believed he could trust them all. 
There was but one thing to do, and that was to put on a bold face 
and trust to luck. " Now out you go," he said, springing over 
the counter, "and never you set your face inside my bar again." 
Charles followed the guv'nor over the counter like lightning, 
and the drunkard was forced into the street. " He don't mean 



ESTHER WATERS. 287 

no 'arm," said one of the friends; " he'll come round to-morrow 
and apologise for what he's said." 

11 1 don't want his apology," said William. " No one shall 
call me a welsher in my bar. . . . Take your friend away, and 
never let me see him in my bar again." 

Suddenly William turned very pale. He was seized with a 
fit of coughing, and this great strong man leaned over the 
counter very weak indeed. Esther led him into the parlour, 
leaving Charles to attend to the customers. His hand trembled 
like a leaf, and she sat by his side holding it. Mr. Blamy came 
in to ask if he should lay one of the young gentleman from the 
tutors thirty shillings to ten against the favourite. Esther said 
that William could attend to no more customers that day. Mr. 
Blamy returned ten minutes after to say that there was quite 
a number of people in the bar; should he refuse to take 
their money? 

"Do you know them all?" said William. 

" I think so, guv'nor." 

" Be careful to bet with no one you don't know; but I'm so 
bad I can hardly speak." 

" Much better send them away," said Esther. 

" Then they'll go somewhere else." 

" It won't matter ; they'll come back to where they're sure of 
their money." 

"I'm not so sure of that," William answered feebly. "I 
think it will be all right, Teddy; you'll be very careful." 

" Yes, guv'nor, I'll keep down the price." 



288 ESTHER WATERS. 



XXXVII. 

One afternoon Fred Parsons came into the bar of the 
11 King's Head." He wore the cap and jersey of the Salvation 
Army ; he was now Captain Parsons. The bars were empty. 
It was a time when business was slackest The morning's 
betting was over; the crowd had dispersed, and would not 
collect again until the Evening Standard had come in. 
William had gone for a walk. Esther and the potboy 
were alone in the house. The potman was at work in the 
backyard, Esther was sewing in the parlour. Hearing steps, 
she went into the bar. Fred looked at her abashed, he was a 
little perplexed. He said — 

" Is your husband in ? I should like to speak to him." 

"No, my husband is out. I don't expect him back for 
an hour or so. Can I give him any message ? " 

She was on the point of asking him how he was. But 
there was something so harsh and formal in his tone and 
manner that she refrained. But the idea in her mind must 
have expressed itself in her face, for suddenly his manner 
softened. He drew a deep breath, and passed his hand across 
his forehead. Then, putting aside the involuntary thought, he 
said — 

" Perhaps it will come through you as well as any other way. 
I had intended to speak to him, but I can explain the matter 
better to you. ... It is about the betting that is being carried 
on here. We mean to put a stop to it. That's what I came 
to tell him. It must be put a stop to. No right-minded 
person — it cannot be allowed to go on." 

Esther said nothing ; not a change of expression came upon 
her grave face. Fred was agitated. The words stuck in his 
throat, and his hands were restless. Esther raised her calm 
eyes, and looked at him. His small pale eyes wandered from 
hers. 



ESTHER WATERS. 289 

"I've come to warn you," he said, "that the law will be 
set in motion. ... It is very painful for me, but something 
must be done. The whole neighbourhood is devoured by it." 
Esther did not answer, and he said, "Why don't you answer, 
Esther?" 

" What is there for me to answer ? You tell me that you 
are going to get up a prosecution against us. I can't prevent 
you. I'll tell my husband what you say." 

"This is a very serious matter, Esther;" he had come 
into command of his voice, and he spoke with earnest deter- 
mination. "If we get a conviction against you for keeping 
a betting-house, you will not only be heavily fined, but you 
will also lose your licence. All we ask is that the betting shall 
cease. . . . No," he said, interrupting, " don't deny anything ; 
it is quite useless, we know everything. The whole neighbour- 
hood is demoralised by this betting ; nothing is thought of but 
tips ; the day's racing — that is all they think about — the even- 
ing papers, and the latest information. You do not know what 
harm you're doing. Every day we hear of some new misfortune 
— a home broken up, the mother in the workhouse, the 
daughter on the streets, the father in prison, and all on 
account of this betting. Oh, Esther, it is horrible; think 
of the harm you're doing." 

Fred Parsons' high, round forehead, his weak eyes, his whole 
face, was expressive of fear and hatred of the evil which a 
falsetto voice denounced with much energy. 

Suddenly he seemed to grow nervous and perplexed. Esther 
was looking at him, and he said, "You don't answer, Esther." 

"What would you have me answer?" 

"You used to be a good religious woman. Do you 
remember how we used to speak when we used to go for 
walks together, when you . were in service in the Avondale 
Road? I remember you agreeing with me that much good 
could be done by those who were determined to do it. You 
seem to have changed very much since those days." 

For a moment Esther seemed affected by these remem- 
brances. Then she said in a low musical voice — 

"No, I've not changed, Fred, but things has turned out 
different. One doesn't do the good that one would like to 
in the world; one has to do the good that comes to one to do. 
I've my husband and my boy to look to. Them's my good. 
At least that's how I sees things." 

19 



290 ESTHER WATERS. 

Fred looked at Esther, and his eyes expressed all the admira- 
tion and love that he felt for her character. " One owes a great 
deal," he said, " to those who are near to one, but not every- 
thing ; even for their sakes one should not do wrong to others ; 
and you must see that you are doing a great wrong to your 
fellow-creatures by keeping on this betting. Public-houses are 
bad enough, but when it comes to gambling as well as drink, 
there's nothing for us to do but to put the law in motion. Look 
you, Esther, there isn't a shop-boy earning eighteen shillings a 
week that hasn't been round here to put his half-crown on some 
horse. This house is the immoral centre of the neighbour- 
hood. No one's money is refused. The boy that pawned 
his father's watch to back a horse went to the ' King's 
Head' to put his money on. His father forgave him again 
and again. Then the boy stole from the lodgers. There was 
an old woman of seventy-five who got nine shillings a week 
for looking after some offices, he had half-a-crown off her. 
Then the father told the magistrate that he could do nothing 
with him since he had taken to betting on horse-races. The 
boy is fourteen. Is it not shocking ? It cannot be allowed 
to go on. We have determined to put a stop to it. That's 
what I came to tell your husband." 

" Are you sure," said Esther, and she bit her lips while she 
spoke, " that it is entirely for the neighbourhood that you want 
to get up the prosecution ? " 

" You don't think there's any other reason, Esther ? You 
surely don't think that I'm doing this because — because he 
took you away from me ? " 

Esther didn't answer. The conversation paused, and 
then Fred said, and there was pain and pathos in his 
voice, " I am sorry you think this of me ; I'm not get- 
ting up the prosecution. I couldn't prevent the law being 
put in motion against you even if I wanted to. ... I only 
know that it is going to be put in motion, so for the sake 
of old times I would save you from harm if I could. I 
came round to tell you if you did not put a stop to the betting 
you'd get into trouble. I have no right to do what I have 
done, but I'd do anything to save you and yours from harm." 

" I'm sorry for what I said. It is very good of you." 

" We have not any proofs as yet ; we know, of course, all 
about the betting, but we must have sworn testimony before 
the law can be set in motion, so you'll be quite safe if you 



ESTHER WATERS. 29 1 

can persuade your husband to give it up." Esther did not 
answer. " It is entirely on account of the friendship I feel for 
you that made me come to warn you of the danger. You 
don't bear me any ill-will, Esther, I hope ? " 

" No, Fred, I don't. I think I understand." The conver- 
sation paused again. " I suppose we have said everything." 
Esther turned her face from him. Fred looked at her, and 
though her eyes were averted from him she could see that he 
loved her. In another moment he was gone. In her plain 
and ignorant way she thought on the romance of destiny. 
If she had married Fred her life would have been quite 
different. She would have led the life that she wished to 
lead, but she had married William and, — well, she must do the 
best she could. Then her thoughts went straight to her husband. 
If Fred or Fred's friends got the police to prosecute them for 
betting, they would, as he said, not only have to pay a heavy 
fine but would probably lose their licence. Then what would 
they do ? William had not health to go about from race-course 
to race-course as he used to. He had lost a lot of money in the 
last six months ; Jack was at school — they must think of Jack. 
The thought of their danger lay like a bullet in her brain all 
that evening. William had come in late, she had had no 
opportunity of speaking to him alone, she had to wait until they 
were. in their room. Then as she untied the strings of her 
petticoats she said — 

" I had a visit from Fred Parsons this afternoon." 
" That's the fellow you were engaged to marry. Is he after 
you still ? " 

" No, he came to speak to me about the betting." 
" About the betting — what is it to do with him ? " 
" He says that if it isn't stopped that we shall be prose- 
cuted." 

"So he came here to tell you that, did he ? I wish I had 
been in the bar." 

" I'm glad you wasn't. What good could you have done ? 
to have a row and make things worse ! " 

William lit his pipe and unlaced his boots. Esther slipped 
on her night-dress and got into bed. It was a large brass 
bedstead, without curtains. The room had two windows, one 
on a line with the head of the bed, the other very nearly facing 
the door. The chest of drawers stood between the windows. 
Esther had placed there the books her mother had given her, 



292 ESTHER WATERS. 

and William had hung some sporting prints on the walls. He 
took his night-shirt from the pillow and put it on without 
removing his pipe from his mouth. He always finished his 
pipe in bed. 

" It is revenge," he said, pulling the bed-clothes up to his 
chin, " because I got you away from him." 

" I don't think it is that; I did think so at first, and I said 
so." 

"What did he say?" 

" He said he was sorry I thought so badly of him ; that he 
came to warn us of our danger. If he had wanted to do us an 
injury, he wouldn't have said nothing about it. Don't you 
think so ? " 

" It seems reasonable. Then what do you think they're 
doing it for ? " 

" He says that keeping a betting-house is corruption in the 
neighbourhood." 

" You think he thinks that ? " 

" I know he do ; and there is many like him. I come of 
them that thinks like that, so I know. Betting and drink is 
what my folk, the Brethren, holds most as evil." 

" But you've forgot all about them Brethren." 

" No, one never forgets what one's brought up in." 

" But what do you think now?" 

" I've never said nothing about it. I don't believe in a wife 
interfering with her husband ; and business was that bad, and 
your 'ealth 'asn't been the same since them colds you caught 
standing about in them betting rings, so I don't see how you 
could help it. But now that business is beginning to come 
back to us, it might be as well to give up the betting." 

" It is the betting that brings the business ; we shouldn't 
take five pounds a week was it not for the betting. What's 
the difference between betting on the course and betting in 
the bar ? No one says nothing against it on the course ; the 
police is there, and they goes after the welshers and persecutes 
them. Then the betting that's done at Tattersall's and the 
Albert Club, what is the difference ? The Stock Exchange too, 
where thousands and thousands is betted every day. It is the 
old story — one law for the rich and another for the poor. 
Why shouldn't the poor man 'ave his 'alf-crown's worth of 
excitement ? the rich man can have his thousand pound's 
worth whenever he pleases. The same with the public-'ouses — 



ESTHER WATERS. 293 

there's a lot of hypocritical folk that is for docking the poor 
man of his beer, but there's no one that's for interfering with 
them that drink champagne in the clubs. It's all bloody rot, 
and it makes me sick when I think of it. Them hypocritical 
folk. Betting ! isn't everything betting ? How can they put 
down betting ? Hasn't it been going on since the world 
began ? Rot, says I ! They can just ruin a poor devil like 
me, and that's about all. We are ruined, and the rich goes 
scot-free. Hypocritical, mealy-mouthed lot. ' Let's say our 
prayers and sand the sugar;' that's about it. I hate them 
that is always prating out religion. When I hears too much 
religion going about I says now's the time to look into their 
accounts." 

William leaned out of bed to light his pipe from the candle 
on the night-table. 

" There's good people in the world, people that never thinks 
but of doing good, and do not live for pleasure." 

" ' All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,' Esther. 
Their only pleasure is a bet. When they've one on they've 
something to look forward to ; whether they win or lose they 
'as their money's worth. You know what I say is true ; you've 
seen them, how they look forward to the evening paper to see 
how the 'oss is going on in betting. Man can't live without 
hope. It is their only hope, and I says no one has a right to 
take it from them." 

" What about their poor wives ? Very little good their 
bettings is to them. It's all very well to talk like that, William, 
but you know, and you can't say you don't, that a great deal of 
mischief comes of betting ; you know that once they think of 
it and nothing else, they neglect their work. There's Stack, 
he's lost his place as porter ; there's Journeyman too, he's out 
of work." 

"And a good thing for them; they've done a great deal 
better since they chucked it." 

" For the time maybe ; but who says it will go on. Look 
at old John, he's going about in rags ; and his poor wife, she 
was in here the other night, a terrible life she's 'ad of it. You 
says that no 'arm comes of it. What about that boy that was 
'ad up the other day, and said that it was all through betting ? 
He began by pawning his father's watch. It was here that he 
made the first bet. You won't tell me that it is right to bet 
with bits of boys like that." 



294 ESTHER WATERS. 

" The horse he backed with me won." 

"So much the worse. . . . The boy'll never do another 
honest day's work as long as he lives. . . . When they win, 
they 'as a drink for luck; when they loses, they 'as a drink to 
cheer them up." 

" I'm afraid, Esther, you ought to have married the other 
chap. He'd have given you the life that you'd have been 
happy in. This public-house ain't suited to you." 

Esther turned round and her eyes met her husband's. There 
was a strange remoteness in his look, and they seemed very 
far from each other. 

" I was brought up to think so differently," she said, her 
thoughts going back to her early years in the little southern 
sea-side home. ' ' I suppose this betting and drinking will always 
seem to me sinful and wicked. I should 'ave liked quite 
a different kind of life, but we don't choose our lives, we just 
makes the best of them. You was the father of my child, and 
it all dates from that." 

11 1 suppose it do." 

William lay on his back, and blew the smoke swiftly from 
his mouth. 

" If you smoke much more we shan't be able to breathe in 
this room." 

M I won't smoke no more. Shall I blow the candle out ? " 

" Yes, if you like." 

When the room was in darkness, just before they settled 
their faces on the pillow for sleep, William said — 

" It was good of that fellow to come and warn us. I must 
be very careful for the future with whom 1 bet." 



ESTHER WATERS. 295 



XXXVIII. 

On Sunday, as soon as dinner was over, Esther had intended 
to go to East Uulwich to see Mrs. Lewis. But as she closed 
the door behind her she saw Sarah coming up the street. 

"Ah, I see you're going out." 

" It don't matter, won't you come in, if it's only for a 
minute? " 

" No, thank you, I won't keep you. But which way are you 
going? we might go a little way together." 

They walked down Waterloo Place and along Pall Mall. 
In Trafalgar Square there was a demonstration, and Sarah 
lingered in the crowd so long that when they arrived at 
Charing Cross, Esther found that she could not get to Ludgate 
Hill in time to catch her train. Sarah said she was sorry. 
There was a band, however, in the Embankment Gardens, and 
she proposed that they should listen to the music. The great 
hotels rose in numberless windows and balconies. It had 
been raining, and the women wiped the seats with their 
handkerchiefs before sitting down. A small crowd of work- 
ing men, their wives and children, had collected. There 
was no fashion to interest them, and the brazen music 
sounded foolish in the void of the grey London Sunday. 
Sarah's chatter was equally irrelevant, and Esther wondered 
how Sarah could talk so much about nothing, and regretted 
her visit to East Dulwich more and more. Suddenly Bill's 
name came into the conversation; then it became more 
interesting. 

"But I thought you didn't see him any more; you promised 
us you wouldn't." 

" I couldn't help it. . . . It was quite an accident. One 
day coming back from church with Annie — that's the new 
housemaid — he came up and spoke to us." 



296 ESTHER WATERS. 

"What did he say?" 

"He said, 'How are ye? . . . Who'd thought of meeting 
you ! ' " 

" And what did you say ? " 

" I said I didn't want to have nothing to do with you. Annie 
walked on, and then he said he was very sorry, that it was bad 
luck that drove him to it." 

" And you believed him ? " 

"I daresay it is very foolish of me. But one can't help 
oneself. Did you ever really care for a man ? " 

And without waiting for an answer Sarah continued her 
babbling chatter. She had asked him not to come after her ; 
she thought he was sorry for what he had done. She 
mentioned incidentally that he had been away in the country 
and had come back with very particular information regarding 
a certain horse for the Cesarewitch. If the horse won he'd be 
all right. 

At last Esther's patience was tired out. 

" It must be getting late," she said, looking towards where 
the sun was setting. The river rippled, and the edges of 
the warehouses had perceptibly softened; a wind too had 
come up with the tide, and the women shivered as they 
passed under the arch of Waterloo Bridge. They ascended 
a flight of high steps and walked through a passage into 
the Strand. 

" I was miserable enough with him ; we used to have hardly 
anything to eat; but I'm more miserable away from him. 
Esther, I know you'll laugh at me, but I'm that heart-broken 
... I can't live without him ... I'd do anything for him." 

" He isn't worth it." 

"That don't make no difference. You don't know what 
love is ; a woman who hasn't loved a man who don't love her, 
don't. We used to live near here. Do you mind coming up 
Drury Lane? I should like' to show you the house." 

"I'm afraid it will be out of our way." 

"No, it won't. Round by the church and up Newcastle 
Street. . . . Look, there's a shop we used to go to sometimes. 
I've eaten many a good sausage and onions in there, and that's 
a pub where we often used to go for a drink." 

The courts and alleys had vomited their populations into 
the Lane. Fat girls clad in shawls sat round the slum 
openings nursing their babies. Old women crouched in 



ESTHER WATERS. 297 

decrepit doorways, fumbling their aprons; skipping ropes 
whirled in the roadway. A little higher up a vendor of cheap 
ices had set up his store and was rapidlyabsorbing all the pennies 
of the neighbourhood. Esther and Sarah turned into a dilapi- 
dated court, where a hag argued the price of trotters with a 
family leaning one over the other out of a second-floor 
window. This was the block in which Sarah had lived. 
A space had been cleared by the builder, and the other 
side was shut in by the great wall of the old theatre. 

"That's where we used to live," said Sarah, pointing up to 
the third floor. " I fancy our house will soon come down. 
When I see the old place it all comes back to me. I remember 
pawning a dress over the way in the lane, they would only 
lend me a shilling on it. And you see that shop— the 
shutters is up, it being Sunday ; it is a sort of butchers, cheap 
meat, livers and lights, trotters, and such-like. I bought a 
bullock's heart there, and stewed it down with some potatoes ; 
we did enjoy it, I can tell you." 

Sarah talked so eagerly of herself that Esther had not the 
heart to interrupt her. They made their way out into 
Catherine Street and then into Endel Street, and then going 
round St. Giles' Church, they plunged into the labyrinth of 
Soho. 

" I'm afraid I'm tiring you. I don't see what interest all this 
can be to you." 

" We've know T n each other a long time." 

Sarah looked at her, and then, unable to resist the tempta- 
tion, she continued her narrative — Bill had said this, she had 
said that. She rattled on, until they came to the corner of 
Old Compton Street. Esther, who was a little tired of her, 
held out her hand. " I suppose you must be getting back ; 
would you like a drop of something ? " 

" It is going on for seven o'clock ; but since you're that kind 
I think I'd like a glass of beer." 

"Do you listen much to the betting talk here of an 
evening ? " Sarah asked as she was leaving. 

" I don't pay much attention, but I can't help hearing a 
good deal." 

" Do they talk much about Ben Jonson for the Cesare- 
witch?" 

" They do indeed ; he's all the go." 

Sarah's face brightened perceptibly, and Esther said — 



298 ESTHER WATERS. 

" Have you backed him ? " 

" Only a trifle ; half-a-crown that a friend put me on. But 
do they say he'll win ? " 

" They say that if he don't break down he'll win by 'alf 
a mile ; it all depends on his leg." 

" Is he coming on in the betting? " 

" Yes, I believe they're now taking 12 to 1 about him. But 
I'll ask William if you like." 

" No, no, I only wanted to know if you'd heard anything 
new." 



ESTHER WATERS. 299 



XXXIX. 

During the next fortnight Sarah came several times to the 
" King's Head." She came in about nine in the evening, and 
stayed for half-an-hour or more. The ostensible object of 
her visit was to see Esther, but she declined to come into the 
private bar where they would have chatted comfortably, and 
remained in the public bar listening to the men's conversation, 
listening and nodding while old John explained the horse's 
staying power to her. On the following evening all her interest 
was in Ketley. She wanted to know if anything had happened 
that might be considered as an omen. She said she had dreamed 
about the race, but her dream was only a lot of foolish rubbish 
without head or tail. Ketley argued earnestly against this view 
of a serious subject, and in the hope of convincing her of her 
error offered to walk as far as Oxford Street with her and put 
her into her 'bus. But on the following evening all her interest 
was centred in Mr. Journeyman, who declared that he could 
prove that according to the weight it seemed to him to look 
more and more like a certainty. He had let the horse in at 
six stone ten pounds, the official handicapper had only given 
him six stone seven pounds. 

" They is a-sending of him along this week, and if the leg 
don't go it is a hundred pound to a brass farthing on the old 
horse." 

" How many times will they gallop him ? " Sarah asked. 

" He goes a mile and a 'arf every day now. . . . The day 
after to-morrow they'll try him, just to see that he hasn't lost 
his turn of speed, and if he don't break down in the trial you 
can take it from me that it will be all right." 

" When will you know the result of the trial ? " 

"I expect a letter on Friday morning," said Stack. "If 
you come in the evening I'll let you know about it." 

"Thank you very much, Mr. Stack. I must be getting 
home now." 



300 ESTHER WATERS. 

" I'm going your way, Miss Tucker ... if you like we'll go 
together, and I'll tell you," he whispered, "all about the 'orse." 
When they had left the bar the conversation turned on 
racing as an occupation for women. 

" Fancy my wife making a book on the course. I bet she'd 
overlay it and then turn round and back the favourite at a 
shorter price than she'd been laying." 

" I don't know that we should be no foolisher than you," 
said Esther; "don't you never go and overlay your book? 
What about Syntax and the 'orse you told me about last 
week ? " 

William had been heavily hit last week through overlaying 
his book against a horse he didn't believe in, and the whole 
bar joined in the laugh against him. 

" I don't say nothing about book-making," said Journeyman ; 
" but there's a great many women nowadays who is mighty 
sharp at spotting a 'orse that the handicapper had let in pretty 
easy." 

" This one," said Ketley, jerking his thumb in the direction 
that Stack and Sarah had gone, " seems to 'ave got hold of 
something." 

" We must ask Stack when he comes back," and Journeyman 
winked at William. 

"Women do get that excited over trifles," old John remarked 
sarcastically. " She ain't got above 'alf-a-crown on the 'orse, if 
that. She don't care about the 'orse or the race, no woman 
ever did; it's all about some sweetheart that's been piling it 
on." 

" I wonder if you're right," said Esther reflectively. "I never 
knew her before to take such an interest in a horse-race." 

On the day of the race Sarah came into the private bar 
about three o'clock. The news was not yet in. 

"Wouldn't you like to step into the parlour, you'll be more 
comfortable ? " said Esther. 

"No thank you, dear; it is not worth while. I thought I'd 
like to know which one, that's all." 

" Have you much on ? " 

" No, five shillings altogether. . . . But a friend of mine 
stands to win a good bit. I see you've got a new dress, dear. 
When did you get it ? " 

" I've had the stuff by me some time. I only had it made up 
last month. Do you like it?" 



ESTHER WATERS. 301 

Sarah answered that she thought it very pretty. But Esther 
could see that she was thinking of something quite different. 

" The race is over now. It's run at half-past two." 

"Yes, but they're never quite punctual; there may be a 
delay at the post." 

"I see you know all about it." 

11 One never hears of anything else." 

Esther asked Sarah when her people came back to town. 
Sarah's face at once changed expression. 

"They're expected back to-morrow," she said. "Why do 
you ask ? " 

" Oh, nothing; something to say, that's all." 

The conversation paused and the two women looked at each 
other. At that moment a voice coming rapidly towards them 
was heard calling, " Win-ner, win-ner." 

" I'll send out for the paper," said Esther. 

"No.no . . . suppose he shouldn't have won ? " 

"Well, it won't make no difference." 

"Oh, Esther, no; some one will come in and tell us. The 
race can't be over yet ; it is a long race and takes some time 
to run." 

By this time the boy was far away and fainter and fainter the 
terrible word, "Win-ner, win-ner, win-ner." 

"It's too late now," said Sarah; "some one'll come in 
presently and tell us about it. ... I daresay it ain't in 
the paper at all. Them boys cries out anything that will sell." 

" Win-ner, win-ner." The voice was coming towards them. 

" If he has won, Bill and I is to marry. . . . Somehow I feel 
as if he hasn't." 

" Win-ner." 

" We shall soon know." Esther took a halfpenny from the 
till. 

" Don't you think we'd better wait ? It can't be printed in 

the papers, not the true account, and if it was wrong " 

Esther didn't answer; she gave Charles the halfpenny; he 
went out, and in a few minutes came back with the paper in 
his hand. "Tornado first, Ben Jonson second, Woodcraft 
third," he read out. "That's a good thing for the guv'nor. 
There was very few what backed Tornado. . . . He's only lost 
some place-money." 

" So he was only second," said Sarah, turning deadly pale. 
" They said he was certain to win." 



302 ESTHER WATERS. 

" I hope you've not lost much," said Esther. " It wasn't 
with William you backed him." 

" No, it wasn't with William. I only had a few shillings on. 
It don't matter. Let me have a drink." 

" What will you have ? " 

" Some whisky." 

Sarah drank it neat. Esther looked at her doubtfully. 

The bars would be empty for the next two hours ; Esther 
wished to utilise this time ; she had some shopping to do, and 
asked Sarah to come with her. But Sarah complained of 
being tired, and said she would see her when she came back. 

Esther went out a little perplexed. She was detained longer 
than she expected, and when she returned Sarah was stagger- 
ing about in the bar-room, asking Charles for one more drink. 

"All bloody rot; who says I'm drunk? I ain't . . . look 
at me. The 'orse did not win, did he ? I say he did ; paper's 
all so much bloody rot." 

"Oh, Sarah, what is this?" 

" Who's this ? Leave go, I say." 

" Mr. Stack, won't you ask her to come upstairs? . . . Don't 
encourage her." 

" Upstairs ? I'm a free woman. I don't want to go upstairs. 
I'm a free woman ; tell me," she said, balancing herself with 
difficulty and staring at Esther with dull, fishy eyes, " tell me 
if I'm not a free woman ? What do I want upstairs for ? " 

" Oh, Sarah, come upstairs and lie down. Don't go out." 

" I'm going home. Hands off, hands off ! " she said, slap- 
ping Esther's hands from her arm. 

" ' For every one was drunk last night, 
And drunk the night before ; 
And if we don't get drunk to-night, 
We won't get drunk no more. 

Chorus. 

1 Now you will have a drink with me, 
And I'll drink with you ; 
For we're the very rowdiest lot — 
The rowdy Irish crew.' 

That's what we used to sing in the Lane, yer know; should 
'ave seen the coster gals with their feathers, dancing and 




ESTHER WATERS. 303 

clinking their pewters. Rippin Day, Bank 'oliday, Epping, 
under the trees — 'ow they did romp, them gals ! 

" ' We all was roaring drunk last night, 
And drunk the night before ; 
And if we don't get drunk to-night, 
We won't get drunk no more.' 

Girls and boys, you know, altogether." 

" Sarah, listen to me." 

11 Listen ! Come and have a drink, old gal, just another 
drink." She staggered up to the counter. " One more, just 
for luck; do yer 'ear?" Before Charles could stop her she 
had seized a whisky that had just been served. " That's my 
whisky," exclaimed Journeyman. He made a rapid move- 
ment, but was too late. Sarah had drained the glass and 
stood vacantly looking into space. Journeyman seemed so 
disconcerted at the loss of his whisky that every one laughed. 

A few moments after Sarah staggered forward and fell 
insensible into his arms. He and Esther carried her upstairs 
and laid her on the bed in the spare room. 

" She'll be precious bad to-morrow," said Journeyman. 

" I don't know how you could have gone on helping her," 
Esther said to Charles when she got inside the bar ; and she 
seemed so pained that out of deference to her feelings the 
subject was dropped out of the conversation. Esther felt that 
something shocking had happened. Sarah had deliberately 
got drunk. She would not have done that unless she had 
some great trouble on her mind. William too was of this 
opinion. Something serious must have happened. As they 
went up to their room Esther said — 

" It is all the fault of this betting. The neighbourhood is 
completely ruined. They're losing their 'omes and their 
furniture, and you'll bear the blame of it." 

" It do make me so wild to hear you talkin' that way, 
Esther. People will bet, you can't stop them. I lays fair 
prices, and they're sure of their money. Yet you says they're 
losin' their furniture, and that I shall have to bear the blame." 

Esther didn't answer. When they got to the top of the 
stairs she said — 

" I must go and see how Sarah is." 

She took her by the arm and shook her gently. 

" Sarah ! " At last she succeeded in rousing her. " Where 



304 ESTHER WATERS. 

am I ? What's happened. . . . Take that candle out of my 
eyes. . . . Oh, my head is that painful." She fell back on 
the pillow, and Esther thought she had gone to sleep again. 
But she opened her eyes, and, raising herself, she said — 

"Where am I? . . . That's you, Esther?" 

11 Yes. Can't you remember?" 

"No, I can't. I remember that the 'orse didn't win, but 
don't remember nothing after. ... I got drunk, didn't I? 
It feels like it." 

" The 'orse didn't win, and then you took too much. It's 
very foolish of you to give way." 

" Give way ! Drunk, what matter ? I'm done for." 

" Did you lose much? " 

II It wasn't what I lost, it was what I took. ... I gave Bill 
the plate to pledge; it's all gone, and master and missis 
coming back to-morrow. . . . Don't talk about it. I got 
drunk so that I shouldn't think of it." 

" Oh, Sarah, I didn't think it as bad as that. You must 
tell me all about it." 

II I don't want to think about it. They'll come soon 
enough to take me away. Besides, I cannot remember 

nothing now. My mouth's that awful give me a drink. 

. . . Never mind the glass, give me the water-bottle." 

She drank ravenously, and seemed to recover a little. 
Esther pressed her to tell her about the pledged plate. 
" You know that I'm your friend. You'd better tell me. I 
want to help you out of this scrape." 

" No one can help me now, I'm done for. Let them come 
and take me. I'll go with them. I shan't say nothing." 

" How much is it in for? Don't cry like that," Esther said, 
and she took out her handkerchief and wiped Sarah's eyes. 
" How much is it in for ? perhaps I can get my husband to 
lend me the money to get it out." 

" It's no use trying to help me. . . . Esther, I can't talk 
about it now ; I shall go mad if I do." 

" Tell me only how much you got on it." 

" Thirty pounds." 

It took a long time to undress her. Every now and then 
she seemed to slip back into a torpor state. Then she made 
an effort, and another article of clothing was got off. When 
Esther returned to her room William was asleep, and Esther 
took him by the shoulder. 



ESTHER WATERS. 305 

" It is more serious than I thought," she shouted. " I 
want to tell you about it." 

" What about it ? " he said, opening his eyes. 

" She has pledged the plate for thirty pounds to back that 
'orse." 

"What'orse?" 

"Ben Jonson." 

" He broke down at the bushes. If he hadn't I should 
have been broke up. The whole neighbourhood was on him. 
... So she pledged the plate to back him. She didn't do 
that to back him herself. Some one must have put her up 
to it." 

"Yes, it was Bill Evans." 

"Ah, that blackguard put her up to it. I thought she'd 
left him for good. She promised us that she'd never speak 
to him again." 

" You see, she was that fond of him she couldn't help 
herself. There's many that can't." 

" How much did they get on the plate ? " 

" Thirty pounds." 

William blew a long whistle. Then, starting up in bed, 
he said, " She can't stop here. If it comes out that it was 
through betting, it won't do this house any good. We're 
already suspected. There's that old sweetheart of yours, the 
Salvation cove, on the look-out for evidence of betting being 
carried on." 

" She'll go away in the morning. But I thought that you 
might lend her the money to get the plate out." 

" What ! thirty pounds ? " 

"It's a deal of money, I know; but I thought that you 
might be able to manage it. You've been lucky over this 
race." 

" Yes, but think of all I've lost this summer. This is the 
first bit of luck I've had for a long while " 

" I thought you might be able to manage it." 

Esther stood by the bedside, her knee leaned against the 
edge. She seemed to him at that moment as the best woman 
in the world, and he said — 

"Thirty pounds is no more to me than twopence halfpenny 
if you wish it, Esther." 

" I haven't been an extravagant wife, have I? " she said, getting 
into bed and taking him in her arms. " I never asked you for 

20 



306 ESTHER WATERS. 

money before. She's my friend — she's your's too — we've 
known her all our lives. We can't see her go to prison, can we, 
Bill, without raising a ringer to save her? " 

She had never called him Bill before, and the familiar 
abbreviation touched him, and he said — 

" I owe everything to you, Esther ; everything that's mine is 
yours. But," he said, drawing away so that he might see her 
better, " what do you say if I ask something of you ? " 

" XV hat are you going to ask me ? " 

" I want you to say that you won't bother me no more about 
the betting You was brought up to think it wicked. I know 
all that, but you see we can't do without it." 

" Do you think not ? " 

" Don't the thirty pounds you're asking for Sarah come out 
of betting ? ». 

" I suppose it do." 

" Most certainly it do." 

"I can't help feeling, Bill, that we shan't always be as lucky 
as we have been." 

" You mean that you think that one of these days we shall 
have the police down upon us ? " 

" Don't you sometimes think that we can't always go on 
without being caught ? Every day I hear of the police being 
down on some betting club or other." 

" They've been down on a great number lately, but what 
can I do ? We always come back to that. I haven't the health 
to go work round from race-course to race-course as I used to. 
But I've got an idea, Esther. I've been thinking over things 
a great deal lately, and — give me my pipe — there it's just by 
you. Now hold the candle, like a good girl." 

William pulled at his pipe until it was fully lighted. He 
threw himself on his back, and then he said — 

" I've been thinking things over. The betting 'as brought 
us a nice bit of trade here. If we can work up the business 
a bit more we might, let's say in a year from now, be able to 
get as much for the 'ouse as we gave. . . . What do you think 
of buying a business in the country, a 'ouse doing a steady 
trade ? I've had enough of London, the climate don't suit me 
as it used to. I fancy I should be much better in the country, 
somewhere on the South Coast. Bournemouth way, what do 
you think ? " 

Before Esther could reply William was taken with a fit of 



ESTHER WATERS. 307 

coughing, and his great broad frame was shaken as if it were 
so much paper. 

" I'm sure," said Esther, when he had recovered himself 
a little, " that a good deal of your trouble comes from that pipe. 
It's never out of your mouth. ... I feel like choking myself." 
" I daresay I smoke too much. . . . I'm not the man I was. 
I can feel it plain enough. Put my pipe down and blow out 
the candle. ... I didn't ask you how Sarah was." 

" Very bad. She was half dazed and didn't tell me much." 
" She didn't tell you where she had pledged the plate." 
" No, I will ask her about that to-morrow morning." Lean- 
ing forward, she blew out the candle. The wick smouldered 
red for a moment, and they fell asleep happy in each other's 
love, seeming to find new bonds of union in pity for their 
friend's misfortune. 



308 ESTHER WATERS. 



XL. 

" Sarah, you must make an effort and try to dress yourself." 

" Oh, I do feel that bad, I wish I was dead ! " 

" You must not give way like that ; let me help you to put 
on your stockings." 

Sarah looked at Esther. "You're very good to me, but I 
can manage." When she had drawn on her stockings her 
strength was exhausted, and she fell back on the pillow. 

Esther waited a few minutes. "Here 're your petticoats. 
Just tie them round you ; I'll lend you a dressing-gown and a 
pair of slippers." 

William was having breakfast in the parlour. " Well, feeling 
a bit poorly ? " he said to Sarah. " What '11 you have ? There's 
a nice bit of fried fish. . . . Not feeling up to it ? " 

" Oh, no ! I couldn't touch anything." Sarah let herself 
drop on the sofa. 

"A cup of tea '11 do you good," said Esther. "You must 
have a cup of tea, and a bit of toast just to nibble. William, 
pour her out a cup of tea." 

When she had drunk the tea she said she felt a little better. 

" Now," said William, " let's 'ear all about it. Esther has 
told you, no doubt, that we intend to do all we can to help 
you." 

"You can't help me . . . I'm done for," she replied 
dolefully. 

"I don't know about that," said William. "You gave that 
brute Bill Evans the plate to pawn, so far as I know." 

" There isn't much more to tell. He said the horse was 
sure to win. He was at thirty to one at that time. A thou- 
sand to thirty. Bill said that with that money we could buy 
a public-house in the country. He wanted to settle down, he 

wanted to get out of I don't want to say nothing against 

him. He said if I would only give him this chance of 



ESTHER WATERS. 309 

leading a respectable life. We was to be married immediately 
after." 

" He told you all that, did he ? He said he'd give you a 
'ome of your own, I know. A regular rotter; that man is 
about as bad as they make 'em. And you believed it 
all?" 

" It wasn't so much what I believed as what I couldn't help 
myself. He had got that influence over me that my will 
wasn't my own. I don't know how it is — I suppose men have 
stronger natures than women. I 'ardly knew what I was doing ; 
it was like sleep-walking. He looked at me and said, ■ You'd 
better do it.' I did it, and I suppose I'll have to go to prison 
for it. What I says is just the truth, but no one believes tales 
like that. How long do you think they'll give me ? " 

" I hope we shall be able to get you out of this scrape. You 
got thirty pounds on the plate. Esther has told you that I'm 
ready to lend you the money to get it out." 

" Will you do this ? You're good friends indeed. . . . But 
I shall never be able to pay you back such a lot of money." 

"We won't say nothing about paying back; all we want 
you to do is to say that you'll never see that fellow again." 

A change of expression came over Sarah's face, and William 
said, "You're surely not still hankering after him? " 

"No, indeed I'm not. But, whenever I meets him, he 
somehow gets his way with me. It's terrible to love a man as 
I love him. I know he don't really care for me — I know he 
is all you say, and yet I can't help myself. It is better to be 
honest with you." 

William looked puzzled. At the end of a long silence he 
said, " If it's like that I don't see that we can do anything." 

" Have patience, William. Sarah don't know what she's 
saying. She'll promise not to see him again." 

"You're very kind to me. I know I'm very foolish. I 
promised before not to see him, and I couldn't keep my 
promise. " 

"You can stop with us until you get a situation in the 
County," said Esther, " where you'll be out of his way." 

"I might do that." 

" I don't like to part with my money," said William, " if it is 
to do no one any good." Esther looked at him, and he 
added, " It is just as Esther wishes, of course ; I'm not giving 
you the money, it is she." 



3 TO ESTHER WATERS. 

"It is both of us," said Esther; "you'll do what I said, 
Sarah?" 

" Oh yes, anything you say, Esther," and she flung herself 
into her friend's arms and wept bitterly. 

" Now we want to know where you pawned the plate," said 
William. 

" A long way from here. Bill said he knew a place where it 
would be quite safe. I was to say that my mistress left it to 
me; he said that would be sufficient. ... It was in the Mile- 
end Road." 

" You'd know the shop again ? " said William. 

" But she's got the ticket," said Esther. 

"No, I ain't got the ticket; Bill has it." 

" Then I'm afraid the game's up." 

" Do be quiet," said Esther angrily. " If you want to get 
out of lending the money, say so and have done with it." 

" That's not true, Esther. If you want another thirty to pay 
him to give up the ticket, you can have it." 

Esther thanked her husband with one quick look. "I'm 
sorry," she said, " my temper is that hasty. But you know 
where he lives," she said, turning to the wretched woman who 
sat on the sofa pale and trembling. 

"Yes, I know where he lives. 13 Milward Square, Mile- 
end Road." 

" Then we've no time to lose ; we must go after him at once." 

" No, William dear; you must not; you'd only lose your 
temper, and he might do you an injury." 

" An injury! I'd soon show him which was the best man of 
the two." 

" I'll not hear of it, Sarah; he mustn't go with you." 

" Come, Esther, don't be foolish. Let me go." 

He had taken his hat from the peg. Esther got between 
him and the door. 

" I forbid it," she said; " I will not let you go — perhaps to 
have a fight, and with that cough." 

William was coughing. He had turned pale, and he said, 
leaning against the table, "Give me something to drink, a 
little milk." 

Esther poured some into a cup. He sipped it slowly. " I'll 
go upstairs," she said, " for my hat and jacket. You've got your 
betting to attend to." William smiled. "Sarah, mind, he's 
not to go with you." 



ESTHER WATERS. 3 IT 

"You forget what you said last night about the betting." 

"Never mind what I said last night about the betting; 
what I say now is that you're not to leave the bar. Come 
upstairs, Sarah, and dress yourself, and let's be off." 

He nodded affectionately across the bar and they pulled the 
swing doors and went out. Stack and Journeyman were wait- 
ing to speak to him. They had lost heavily over old Ben and 
didn't know how they'd pull through ; and the whole neigh- 
bourhood was in the same plight; the bar was filled with 
gloomy faces. 

And as William scanned their disconcerted faces — clerks, 
hair-dressers, waiters from the innumerable eating-houses — he 
could not help thinking that perhaps more than one of them had 
taken money that did not belong to them to back Ben Jonson. 

The unexpected disaster had upset all their plans, and 
even the wary ones who had a little reserve fund could not 
help backing outsiders, hoping by the longer odds to retrieve 
yesterday's losses. At two the bar was empty, and William 
waited for Esther and Sarah to return from Mile-end. It 
seemed to him that they were a long time away. But Mile- 
end is not close to Soho; and when they returned, between 
four and five, he saw at once that they had been unsuccessful. 
He lifted up the flap in the counter and all three went into the 
parlour. 

" He left Milward Square yesterday," Esther said. " Then 
we went to another address, and then to another; we went 
to all the places Sarah had been to with him, but no tidings 
anywhere." 

Sarah burst into tears. " There's no more hope," she said. 
" I'm done for ; they'll come and take me away. How much 
do you think I'll get ? They won't give me ten years, will 
they ? " 

" I can see nothing else for you to do," said Esther, " but to 
go straight back to your people and tell them the whole story, 
and throw yourself on their mercy." 

" Do you mean that she should say that she pawned the 
plate to get money to back a horse ? " 

" Of course I do." 

"It will make the police more keen than ever on the betting- 
houses." 

"That can't be helped." 

" She'd better not be took here," said William ; " it will do a 



312 ESTHER WATERS. 

great deal of harm. ... It don't make no difference to her 
where she's took, do it ? " 

Esther did not answer. 

" I'll go away. I don't want to get no one into trouble," 
Sarah said, and she got up from the sofa. 

At that moment Charles opened the door, and said, " You're 
wanted in the bar, sir." 

William went out quickly. He returned a moment after. 
There was a scared look on his face. " They're here," he said. 
He was followed by two policemen. Sarah uttered a little cry. 

" Your name is Sarah Tucker ? " said the first policeman. 

" Yes." 

"You're charged with robbery by Mr. Sheldon, 34 
Cumberland Place." 

" Shall I be taken through the streets ? " 

" If you like to pay for it, you can go in a cab," the police- 
officer replied. 

" I'll go with you, dear," Esther said. William plucked her 
by the sleeve. "It will do no good. Why should you go ? " 



ESTHER WATERS. 313 



XLI. 

The magistrate of course sent the case for trial, and the thirty 
pounds which William had promised to give to Esther went to 
pay for the defence. There seemed at first some hope that 
the prosecution would not be able to prove its case, but fresh 
evidence connecting Sarah with the abstraction of the plate 
was forthcoming, and in the end it was thought advisable 
that the plea of not guilty should be withdrawn. The 
efforts of counsel were therefore directed towards a mitiga- 
tion of sentence. Counsel called Esther and William for the 
purpose of proving the excellent character that the prisoner had 
hitherto borne ; Counsel spoke of the evil influence into which 
the prisoner had fallen, and urged that she had no intention 
of actually stealing the plate. Tempted by promises, she had 
been persuaded to pledge the plate in order to back a horse 
which she had been told was certain to win. If that horse had 
won, the plate would have been redeemed and returned to its 
proper place in the owner's house, and the prisoner would 
have been able to marry. Possibly the marriage on which 
the prisoner had set her heart would have turned out more 
unfortunate for the prisoner than the present proceedings. 
Counsel had not words strong enough to stigmatise the char- 
acter of a man who, having induced a girl to imperil her 
liberty for his own vile ends, was cowardly enough to abandon 
her in the hour of her deepest distress. Counsel drew atten- 
tion to the trusting nature of the prisoner, who had not only 
pledged her employer's plate at his base instigation, but had 
likewise been foolish enough to confide the pawn-ticket to his 
keeping. Such was the prisoner's story, and he submitted that 
it bore on the face of it the stamp of truth. A very sad story, 
but one full of simple, foolish, trusting humanity, and, having 
regard to the excellent character the prisoner had borne, 
Counsel hoped that his Lordship would see his way to dealing 
leniently with her. 



314 ESTHER WATERS. 

His Lordship, whose gallantries had been prolonged over 
half a century, and whose betting transactions were matters of 
public comment, pursed up his ancient lips and fixed his dead 
glassy eyes on the prisoner. He said he regretted that 
he could not take the same view of the prisoner's character 
as learned counsel had done. The police had made every 
effort to apprehend the man Evans, who, according to the 
prisoner's story, was the principal culprit. But the efforts of 
the police had been unavailing; they had, however, found 
traces of the man Evans, who undoubtedly did exist and need 
not be considered to be a near relative of our friend Mrs. 
Harris. And the little joke provoked some amusement 
in the court ; learned counsel settled their robes becomingly 
and leant forward to listen. They were in for a humorous 
speech and the prisoner would get off with a light sentence. 
But the grim smile waxed duller, and it was clear that 
Lordship was determined to make the law a terror to 
evil-doers. Lordship drew attention to the fact that during 
the course of their investigations the police had discovered 
that the prisoner had been living for some considerable time 
with the man Evans, during which time several robberies had 
been effected. There was no evidence, it was true, to connect 
the prisoner with these robberies. The prisoner had left the 
man Evans and had obtained a situation in the house of her 
present employers. When the characters she had received 
from her former employers were being examined she had 
accounted for the year she had spent with the man Evans by 
saying that she had been staying with the Latches, the publicans 
who had given evidence in her favour. It had also come to 
the knowledge of the police that the man Evans used to 
frequent the " King's Head," that was the house owned by 
the Latches; it was probable that she had there made the 
acquaintance of the man Evans. The prisoner had referred 
her employers to the Latches, who had lent their sanction to 
the falsehood regarding the year she was supposed to have 
spent with them, but which she had really spent in cohabita- 
tion with a notorious thief. Here Lordship indulged in severe 
remarks against those who enabled not wholly irreproachable 
characters to obtain situations by false pretences, a very 
common habit, and one attended with great danger to society, 
one which society would do well to take precautions to defend 
itself against. 



ESTHER WATERS. 31 5 

The plate, his Lordship remarked, was said to have been 
pawned, but there was nothing to show that it had been 
pawned, the prisoner's explanation being that she had given 
the pawn-ticket to the man Evans. She could not tell where 
she had pawned the plate, her tale being that she and the man 
Evans had gone down to Whitechapel together and pawned it 
in the Mile-end Road. But she did not know the number of 
the pawnbroker's, nor could she give any indications as to its 
whereabouts — beyond the mere fact that it was in the Mile-end 
Road she could say nothing. All the pawnbrokers in the Mile- 
end Road had been searched, but no plate answering to the 
description furnished by the prosecution could be found. 

Learned counsel had endeavoured to show that it had 
been in a measure unpremeditated, that it was the result 
of a passing but irresistible temptation. Learned counsel had 
endeavoured to introduce some element of romance into the 
case ; he had described the theft as the outcome of the 
prisoner's desire of marriage, but his Lordship could not 
find such purity of motive in the prisoner's crime. There was 
nothing to show that there was any thought of marriage in the 
prisoner's mind ; the crime was the result not of any desire of 
marriage, but rather the result of vicious passion concubinage. 
Regarding the plea that the crime was unpremeditated, it was 
only necessary to point out that it had been committed for 
a distinct purpose and had been carried out in conjunction 
with an accomplished thief. 

" There is now only one more point which I wish to refer to, 
and that is the plea that the prisoner did not intend to steal the 
plate, but only to obtain money upon it to enable her and the 
partner in her guilt to back a horse for a race which they 
believed to be — " his Lordship was about to say a certainty for 
him ; he stopped himself however in time — " to be, to be, which 
they believed him to be capable of winning. The race in 
question is I think called the Cesarewitch, and the name of 
the horse [Lordship had lost three hundred on Ben Jonson], 
if my memory serves me right [here Lordship fumbled amid 
papers], yes, the name is as I thought, Ben Jonson. Now, 
the learned counsel for the defence suggested that if the 
horse had won that the plate would have been redeemed 
and restored to its proper place in the pantry cupboards. 
This I venture to point out is a mere hypothesis. The 
money might have been again used for the purpose of gam- 



316 ESTHER WATERS. 

bling. I confess that I do not see why we should condone 
the prisoner's offence because it was committed for the sake of 
obtaining money for gambling purposes. Indeed, it seems to 
me a reason for dealing heavily with the offence. The vice 
among the poorer classes is largely on the increase, and it 
seems to me that it is the duty of all in authority to condemn 
rather than to condone the evil, and to use every effort to 
stamp it out. For my part I fail to perceive any romantic 
element in the vice of gambling. It springs from the desire to 
obtain wealth without work, in other words, without payment ; 
work, whether in the past or the present, is the natural payment 
for wealth, and any wealth that is obtained without work is in 
a measure a fraud committed on the community. Poverty, 
despair, idleness, and every other vice spring from gambling as 
naturally, and in the same profusion, as weeds from barren 
land. Drink, too, is gambling's firmest ally." At this moment 
a certain dryness in his Lordship's throat reminded him of the 
pint of excellent claret that Lordship always drank with his 
lunch, and the thought enabled Lordship to roll out some 
excellent invective against the evils of beer and spirits. And 
his Lordship's losses on the horse whose name he could hardly 
recall helped him to a forcible illustration of the theory that 
drink and gambling mutually uphold and enforce each other. 
When the news that Ben Jonson had broken down at the bushes 
came in his Lordship had drunk a magnum of champagne, and 
memory of this champagne inspired a telling description of 
the sinking feeling consequent on the loss of a wager, and the 
natural inclination of a man to turn to drink to counteract 
it. Drink and gambling are growing social evils ; in a great 
measure they are circumstantial, and only require absolute 
legislation to stamp them out almost entirely. This was not 
the first case of the kind that had come before him ; it was 
one of many, but it was a typical case, presenting all the 
familiar features of the vice of which he had therefore spoken 
at unusual length. Such cases were on the increase, and if 
they continued to increase the powers of the law would have 
to be strengthened. But even as the law stood at present, 
betting-houses, public-houses in which betting was carried on, 
were illegal, and it was the duty of the police to leave no 
means untried to unearth the offenders and bring them to 
justice. Lordship then glanced at the trembling woman in 
the dock. He condemned her to eighteen months hard 



ESTHER WATERS. 3 17 

labour, and, gathering up the papers on the desk, dismissed 
her for ever from his mind. 

The court adjourned for lunch, and Esther and William 
edged their way out of the crowd of lawyers and their 
clerks. Neither spoke for some time. William was much 
exercised by his Lordship's remarks on betting public- 
houses, and his advice that the police should increase their 
vigilance and leave no means untried to uproot that which 
was the curse and the ruin of the lower classes. It was the 
old story, one law for the rich, another for the poor. William 
didn't seek to probe the question any further, this examination 
seemed to him to have exhausted it; and he remembered, 
after all that that hypocritical judge had said, how difficult 
it would be to escape detection. When he was caught he 
would be fined a hundred pounds, and probably lose his 
licence. What would he do then ? He did not confide his 
fears to Esther. She had promised to say no more about the 
betting ; but she had not changed her opinion. She was one 
of them stubborn ones who would sooner die than admit they 
were wrong. Then he wondered what she thought of his Lord- 
ship's speech. She was no doubt chewing it over to herself. 
In this he was mistaken. Esther was thinking of the thin 
gruel Sarah would have to eat, the plank bed on which she 
would, have to sleep, and the miserable future that awaited her 
when she should be released from gaol. 

It was a bright winter's day; the City folk were walking 
rapidly, tightly buttoned up in top-coats, and in a windy sky 
a flock of pigeons floated on straightened wings above the 
telegraph wires. Fleet Street was full of journalists going to 
luncheon-bars and various eating-houses. Their hurry and 
animation were remarkable, and Esther noticed how laggard 
was William's walk by comparison, how his clothes hung loose 
about him, and that the sharp air was at work on his lungs, 
making him cough. She asked him to button himself up more 
closely. They entered the Strand, passing through an odour 
of English joint. William said — 

" I feel a bit peckish, don't you ? We might have a bit of 
lunch here." 

11 Is not that old John's wife ? " Esther said. 

"Yes, that's her," said William. " She'd have seen us if 
that cove hadn't given her the shilling. . . . Lord, I didn't 
think they was as badly off as that. Did you ever see such 



3l8 ESTHER WATERS. 

rags? and that thick leg wrapped up in that awful stocking. 
There's no use looking after her; we can't ask her to come 
in with us." 

They ate their lunch almost without speaking. The morning 
had been full of sadness, and Mrs. Randal's wandering rags 
had seemed to Esther like a foreboding. The bustle of the 
eating-house helped to isolate her thoughts, and she seemed to 
see as if in a vision how she had drifted. She grew frightened, 
as the cattle do in the fields when the sky darkens and the 
storm draws near. She suddenly remembered Mrs. Barfield, 
and she heard her telling her of the unhappiness that she had 
seen come of betting. Where was Mrs. Barfield? Should 
she ever see her again? Mr. Barfield was dead, Miss May 
was forced to live abroad for the sake of her health; all 
that time of long ago was over and done with. Some words 
that Mrs. Barfield had said came back to her ; she had never 
quite understood them, but she had never quite forgotten 
them; they seemed to chime through her life. "My girl," 
Mrs. Barfield had said, " I am more than twenty years 
older than you, and I assure you that time has passed 
like a little dream; life is nothing. We must think of what 
comes after." 

" Cheer up, old girl ; eighteen months is a long while, but 
it ain't a lifetime. She'll get through it all right ; and when 
she comes out we'll try to see what we can do for her." 

William's voice startled Esther from the depth of her dream ; 
she looked at him vaguely, and he saw that she had been 
thinking of something different from what he had suspected. 
" I thought it was on account of Sarah that you was looking 
so sad." 

" No," she said, " I was not thinking of Sarah." 

William's face darkened between the eyes. He took it for 
granted that she was thinking of the wickedness of betting. It 
was aggravating to have a wife who was always troubling about 
things that couldn't be helped. He paid the bill, and they 
hailed the next 'bus. They walked from the Circus, and the 
first person they saw on entering the bar was old John. He 
sat in the corner of the bar (no one else was there), on a high 
stool, his grey, death-like face sunk in the old unstarched short 
collar. The thin, wrinkled throat was hid with the remains of 
a cravat ; it was passed twice round, and tied according to the 
fashion of fifty years ago. His boots were broken ; the trousers. 



ESTHER WATERS. 319 

a grey, dirty brown, were torn as high up as the ankle ; they 
had been mended, and the patches hardly held together ; the 
frock-coat, green with age, with huge flaps over the pockets, 
frayed and torn, and many sizes too large, hung upon his 
starveling body. He seemed very feeble, and there was neither 
light nor expression in his glassy, watery eyes. 

"Eighteen months; a devil of a stiff sentence for a first 
offence," said William. 

"I just dropped in. Charles said you'd sure to be back. 
You're later than I expected." 

" We stopped to have a bit of lunch. But you heard what I 
said. She got eighteen months." 

" Who got eighteen months ? " 

" Sarah." 

"Ah, Sarah. She was tried to-day So she got eighteen 
months." 

" What's the matter ? Wake up ; you're half asleep, What 
will you have to drink ? " 

" A glass of milk, if you've got such a thing." 

" Glass of milk ! What is it, old man — not feeling well ? " 

" Not very well. The fact is, I'm starving." 

" Starving ! . . . Then come into the parlour and have 
something to eat. Why didn't you say so before ? " 

"I, didn't like to." 

He led the old chap into the parlour and gave him a chair. 
" Didn't like to tell me that you was as hard up as all that ? 
What do you mean ? You didn't used to mind coming round 
for half-a-quid." 

" That was to back a horse ; but I didn't like coming to ask 
for food — excuse me, I'm too weak to speak much." 

When old John had eaten, William asked how it was that 
things had gone so badly with him. 

" I've had terrible bad luck lately, can't get on a winner no 
how. I have backed 'orses that 'as been tried to win with two 
stone more on their backs than they had to carry, but just 
because I was on them they didn't win. I don't know how 
many half-crowns I've had on first favourites. Then I tried 
the second favourites, but they gave way to outsiders or the 
first favourites when I took to backing them. Stack's tips and 
Ketley's omens was all the same as far as I was concerned. 
It's a poor business when you're out of luck." 

" It is giving way to fancy that does for the backers. The 



320 ESTHER WATERS. 

bookmaker's advantage is that he bets upon principle and not 
on fancy." 

Old John told how unlucky he had been in business. He had 
been dismissed from his employment in the restaurant, not from 
any fault of his own, he had done his work well. " But they 
don't like old waiters : there's always a lot of young Germans 
about, and customers said I smelt bad. I suppose it was my 
clothes and want of convenience at home for keeping one's 
self tidy. We've been so hard up to pay the three and sixpence 
rent which we've owed, that the black coat and waistkit had to 
go to the pawnshop, so even if I did meet with a job in the 
Exhibition places, where they ain't so particular about yer age, 
I should not be able to take it. It's terrible to think that I 
should have come to this and after having worked round the 
table this forty years, fifty pounds a year and all found, and 
accustomed always to big footman and page-boy under me. 
But there's plenty more like me. It's a poor game. You're 
well out of it. I suppose the end of it will be the work'us. 
I'm pretty well wore out, and '' 

The old man's voice died away. He made no allusion to 
his wife. His dislike to speak of her was part and parcel of 
his dislike to speak of his private affairs. The conversation 
then turned on Sarah; the severity of the sentence was 
alluded to, and William spoke of how the judge's remarks 
would put the police on the watch, and how difficult it 
would be to continue his betting business without being 
found out. 

"There's no doubt that it is most unfortunate," said old 
John. " The only thing for you to do is to be very particular 
about yer introductions, and to refuse to bet with all who 
haven't been properly introduced." 

" Or to give up betting altogether," said Esther. 

" Give up betting altogether," William answered, his face 
flushed, and he gradually worked himself into a passion. " I 
give you a good 'ome, don't I? you want for nothing, do yer? 
Well, that being so, I think you might keep your nose out of 
your husband's business. There's plenty of prayer-meetings 
where you can go preaching if you like." 

William would have said a good deal more, but his anger 
brought on a fit of coughing. Esther looked at him con- 
temptuously, and without answering she walked into the bar. 

" That's a bad cough of yours," said old John. 



ESTHER WATERS. 321 

" Yes," said William, and he drank a little water to pass it 
off. " I must see the doctor about it. It makes one that 
irritable. The missis is in a pretty temper, ain't she ? " 

Old John did not reply; it was not his habit to notice 
domestic differences of opinion, especially those in which 
women had a share — queer cattle that he knew nothing about. 
The men talked for a long time regarding the danger the 
judge's remarks had brought the house into ; they considered 
all the circumstances of the case. Allusion was made to the 
injustice of the law which allowed the rich and forbade the 
poor to bet; anecdotes were related, but nothing they said 
threw new light on the matter in hand, and when old John 
rose to go William summed up the situation in these few 
words — 

" Bet I must, if I'm to get my living. The only thing I can 
do is to be careful not to bet with strangers." 

" I don't see how they can do nothing to you if yer makes 
that yer principle and sticks to it," said old John, and he put 
on the huge-rimmed, greasy hat, three sizes too large for 
him, looking in his square-cut tattered frock-coat as queer a 
specimen of humanity as you would be likely to meet with in 
a day's walk. " If you makes that yer principle and sticks to 
it," thought William. 

But practice and principle are never reduced to perfect 
agreement. One is always marauding the other's territory, 
nevertheless for several months principle distinctly held the 
upper hand; William refused over and over again to make 
bets with comparative strangers, but the day came when his 
principle relaxed, and he took the money of a man whom 
he thought was all right. It was done on the impulse of 
the moment, but the two half-crowns wrapped up in paper, 
with the name of the horse written on the paper, had 
hardly gone into the drawer than he felt that he had done 
wrong. He couldn't tell why, but the feeling came across 
him that he had done wrong in taking the man's money — a 
tall clean-shaven man dressed in broad cloth. It was too late 
to draw back. The man had finished his beer and had left 
the bar, which in itself was suspicious. 

Three days afterwards, between twelve and one, just the 
busiest time, when the bar was full of people, there came a 
cry of " Police ! " An effort was made to hide the betting 
plant ; a rush was made for the doors. It was all too late ; 

21 



322 ESTHER WATERS. 

the sergeant and a constable ordered that no one was to leave 
the house; other police were outside. The names and 
addresses of all present were taken down ; search was made, 
and the packets of money and the betting books were dis- 
covered. Then they all had to go to Marlborough Street. 



ESTHER WATERS. 323 



XLII. 

Next day the following account was given in most of the daily 
papers : — " Raid on a betting man in the West End. William 
Latch, 35, landlord of the ■ King's Head,' Dean Street, 
.Soho, was charged that he, being a licensed person, did 
keep and use his public-house for the purpose of betting 
with persons resorting thereto. Thomas William, 35, billiard 
marker, Gaulden Street, Battersea; Arthur Henry Parsons, 
25, waiter, Northumberland Street, Marylebone; Joseph Stack, 
52, gentleman; Harold Journeyman, 45, gentleman, High 
Street, Norwood; Philip Hutchinson, grocer, Bisey Road, 
Fulham; William Tann, piano-tuner, Standard Street, Soho; 
Charles Ketley, butterman, Green Street, Soho ; John Randal, 
Frith Street, Soho ; Charles Muller, 44, tailor, Marylebone 
Lane; Arthur Bartram, stationer, East Street Buildings; 
William Burton, harness maker, Blue Lion Street, Bond Street, 
were charged with using the ' King's Head ' for the purpose 
of betting. Evidence was given by the police regarding the 
room upstairs, where a good deal of drinking went on after 
hours. There had been cases of disorder, and the magistrate 
unfortunately remembered that a servant-girl, who had pledged 
her master's plate to obtain money to back a horse, had been 
arrested in the ' King's Head.' Taking these facts into con- 
sideration, it seemed to him that he could not do less than 
inflict a fine of ;£ioo. The men who were found in Latch's 
house he ordered to be bound over." 

Who had first given information? that was the question. 
Old John sat smoking in his corner. Journeyman leaned 
against the yellow- painted partition, his legs thrust out. Stack 
stood square, his dark crimson-tinted skin contrasting with 
sallow-faced little Ketley. 

" Don't the omens throw no light on this 'ere matter ? " said 
Journeyman. 



324 ESTHER WATERS. 

Ketley started from his reverie. 

" Ah," said William, " if I only knew who the b was." 

" Ain't you got no idea of any sort ? " said Stack. 

" There was a Salvation chap who came in some months 
ago and told my wife that the betting was corrupting the 
neighbourhood. That it would have to be put a stop to. It 
may 'ave been 'e." 

" You don't ask no one to bet with you. They does as 
they like." 

" Does as they like ! No one does that nowadays. There's 
a temperance party, a purity party, and a hante-gambling party, 
and what they is working for is just to stop folk from doing as 
they like." 

" That's it," said Journeyman. 

Stack raised his glass to his lips and said, " Here's luck." 

" There's not much of that about," said William. " We 
seem to be losing all round. I'd like to know where the 
money goes. I think it is the 'ouse ; it's gone unlucky, and 
I'm thinking of clearing out." 

" We may live in a 'ouse a long while before we find what 
its luck really is," said Ketley. " I've been in my old 'ouse 
these twenty years, and it ain't nothing like what I thought it." 

" You are that superstitious," said Journeyman. " If there 
was anything the matter with the 'ouse you'd 've know'd it 
before now." 

" Ain't you doing the trade you was ? " said Stack. 

"No, my butter and egg trade have fallen dreadful lately." 

The conversation paused. It was Stack who broke the 
silence. 

" Do you intend to do no more betting 'ere ? " he asked. 

"What, after being fined ^"ioo? You 'eard the way he 
went on about Sarah, and all on account of her being took 
here. I think he might have left Sarah out." 

11 It warn't for betting she took the plate," said Journeyman ; 
" it was 'cause her chap said if she did he'd marry her." 

" I wonder you ever left the course," said Stack. 

" It was on account of my 'ealth. I caught a dreadful cold 
at Kempton, standing about in the mud. I've never quite got 
over that cold." 

"I remember," said Ketley; "you couldn't speak above a 
whisper for two months." 

" Two months ! more like three." 



ESTHER WATERS. 325 

" Fourteen weeks," said Esther. 

Esther was in favour of disposing of the house and going to 
live in the country. But it was soon found that the conviction 
for keeping a betting-house had spoiled their chance of an 
advantageous sale. If, however, the licence were renewed next 
year, and the business did not in the meantime decline, they 
would be in a position to obtain better terms. So all their 
energies should be devoted to the improvement of their 
business. Esther engaged another servant; her luncheons 
were more copious; she provided the best meat and vege- 
tables that money could buy; William ordered beer and spirits 
of a quality that could be procured nowhere else in the 
neighbourhood ; but all to no purpose. As soon as it became 
known that it was no longer possible to pass half-a-crown or 
a shilling wrapped up in a piece of paper across the bar, their 
custom began to decline. 

At last William could stand it no longer, and he obtained 
his wife's permission to once more begin book-making on the 
course. His health had begun to improve with the spring 
weather, and there was no use keeping him at home eating his 
heart out with vexation because they were doing no business. 
So did Esther reason, and it reminded her of old times when 
he came back with his race-glasses slung round his shoulder. 
" Favourites all beaten to-day; what have you got for me to 
eat, old girl ? " Esther forgot her dislike of racing in the joy 
of seeing her husband happy, if he'd only pick up a bit of 
flesh ; but he seemed to get thinner and thinner, and his food 
didn't seem to do him no good. 

One day he came home complaining that the ring was six 
inches of soft mud; he was wet to the skin, and he sat shiver- 
ing the whole evening, with the sensation of a long illness 
upon him. He was laid up for several weeks, and his voice 
seemed as if it would never return to him again. There was 
little or no occupation for him in the bar; and instead of 
laying he began to take the odds. He backed a few winners, 
it is true ; but they could not rely on that. Most of their trade 
had slipped from them, so it did not much matter to them 
if they were found out. He might as well be hung for a sheep 
as a lamb, and surreptitiously at first and then more openly he 
began to take money across the bar, and with every shilling 
he took for a bet another shilling was spent in drink. Custom 
came back in ripples and then in stronger waves, until once 



326 ESTHER WATERS. 

again the bar of the " King's Head " was full to overflowing. 
Another conviction meant ruin, but they must risk it, so 
said William; and Esther, like a good wife, acquiesced in 
her husband's decision. But he took money only from those 
whom he was quite sure of. He required an introduction, 
and was careful to make inquiries concerning every new backer. 
" In this way," he said to Ketley, " so long as one is content to 
bet on a small scale I think it can be kept dark ; but if you try 
to extend your connection you're bound to come across a wrong 
'un sooner or later. It was that room upstairs that did for me." 

" I never did think much of that room upstairs," said 
Ketley. " There was a something about it that I didn't like. 
Be sure you never bet in that jug and bottle bar, whatever you 
do. There's just the same look there as in the room upstairs. 
Haven't you noticed it ? " 

" Can't say I 'ave, nor am I sure that I know exactly what 
you mean." 

" If you don't see it, you don't see it ; but it's plain enough 
to me, and don't you bet with nobody standing in that bar. I 
wouldn't go in there for a sovereign." 

William laughed. He thought at first that Ketley was 
joking, but he soon saw that Ketley regarded the jug and 
bottle entrance with real suspicion. When pressed to explain, 
he told Journeyman that it wasn't that he was afraid of the 
place, he merely didn't like it. "There's some places that 
you likes better than others, ain't they?" Journeyman was 
obliged to confess that they were. 

"Well then, that's one of the places I don't like. Don't 
you hear a voice talking there, a soft, low voice, with a bit of 
a jeer in it ? " 

On another occasion he shaded his eyes and peered curiously 
into the left-hand corner. 

" What are you looking at ? " asked Journeyman. 

" At nothing that you can see," Ketley answered ; and he 
drank his whisky as if lost in consideration of grave and 
difficult things. A few weeks later they noticed that he 
always got as far from the jug and bottle entrance as possible, 
and he was afflicted with a long story concerning a danger that 
awaited him. " He's waiting ; but nothing will happen if I 
don't go in there. He can't follow me; he is waiting for me 
to go to him." 

"Then keep out of his way," said Journeyman. "You 



ESTHER WATERS. 3 2 7 

might ask your bloody fiend if he can tell us anything about 
the Leger." 

"I'm trying to keep out of his way; but he's always 
watching and a-beckoning of me." 

" Can you see him now ? " asked Stack. 

"Yes," said Ketley; " he's a-sitting there, and he seems to 
say that if I don't come to him worse will happen." 

11 Don't say nothing to him," William whispered to Journey- 
man. " I don't think he's quite right in 'is 'ead j he's been 
losing a lot lately." 

One day Journeyman was surprised to see Ketley sitting 
quite composedly in the jug and bottle bar. 

" He got me at last ; I had to go, the whispering got so loud 
in my head as I was a-coming down the street. I tried to 
get out into the middle of the street, but a drunken chap 
pushed me across the pavement, and He was at the door 
waiting, and He said, ' Now you'd better come in ; you know 
what will happen if you don't.'" 

" Don't talk rot, old pal ; come round and have a drink with 
us." 

" I can't just at present — I may later on." 

"What do he mean?" said Stack. 

"Lord, I don't know," said Journeyman. "It's only his 
wandering talk." 

They tried to discuss the chances of the various horses they 
were interested in, but they could not detach their thoughts 
from Ketley, and their eyes went back to the queer little 
sallow-faced man who sat on a high stool in the adjoining 
bar paring his nails. They felt something was going to 
happen, and before they could say the word he had plunged the 
knife deep into his neck, and had fallen heavily on the floor. 
William vaulted over the counter. As he did so he felt some- 
thing break in his throat, and when Stack and Journeyman 
came to his assistance, he was almost as white as the corpse at 
his feet. Blood flowed from his mouth and from Ketley's 
neck in a deep stream that swelled into a great pool and 
thickened on the saw-dust. 

" It was jumping over that bar," William replied faintly. 

" I'll see to my husband," said Esther. 

A rush of blood cut short his words, and, leaning on his wife, 
he walked feebly round into the back parlour. Esther rang 
the bell violently. 



328 ESTHER WATERS. 

"Go round at once to Doctor Green," she said ; "and if he 
isn't in, inquire which is the nearest. Don't come back without 
a doctor." 

William had broken a small blood-vessel, and the doctor 
said he would have to be very careful for a long time. It was 
likely to prove a long case. Ketley had severed the jugular at 
one swift, keen stroke, and had died almost instantly. Of 
course there was an inquest, and the coroner asked many 
questions regarding the habits of the deceased. Mrs. Ketley 
was one of the witnesses called, and she deposed that he had 
lost a great deal of money lately in betting, and that he went 
to the " King's Head " for the purpose of betting. The 
police deposed that the landlord of the "King's Head" 
had been fined a hundred pounds for keeping a betting-house, 
and the foreman of the jury remarked that betting-houses 
were the. ruin of the poorer classes, and that they ought to be 
put a stop to. The coroner added that such places as the 
" King's Head " should not be licensed. That was the 
simplest and most effectual way of dealing with the nuisance. 

"There never was no luck about this house," said William, 
"and what there was has left us; in three months' time we 
shall be turned out of it neck and crop. Another conviction 
would mean a fine of a couple of hundred, or most like three 
months, and that would just about be the end of me." 

"They'll never license us again," said Esther, "and the boy 
at school and doing so well." 

" I'm sorry, Esther, to have brought this trouble on you. We 
must do the best we can, get the best price we can for the 
'ouse. I may be lucky enough to back a few winners. That's 
all there is to be said — the 'ouse was always an unlucky one. 
I hate the place, and shall be glad to get out of it." 

Esther sighed. She didn't like to hear the house spoken ill 
of; and after so many years it did seem a shame. 



ESTHER WATERS. 329 



XLIII. 

Esther kept William within doors during the winter months. 
If his health did not improve it got no worse, and she had 
begun to hope that the breakage of the blood-vessel did not 
mean lung disease. But the harsh winds of spring did not suit 
him, and there was business with his lawyer to which he was 
obliged to attend. A determined set was going to be made 
against the renewal of his licence, and he was determined to 
defeat his opponents. Counsel was instructed, and a great deal 
of money was spent on the case. But the licence was never- 
theless refused, and the north-east wind did not cease to rattle; 
it seemed resolved on William's death, and with a sick hus- 
band on her hands, and all the money they had invested in 
the house irreparably lost, Esther began to make preparations 
for moving. 

William had proved a kind husband, and in the seven years 
she had spent in the "King's Head" there had been some enjoy- 
ment of life. She couldn't say that she had been unhappy. 
She had always disapproved of the betting. . . . They had 
tried to do without it. There was a great deal in life which 
one couldn't approve of. . . . But Ketley had never been very 
right in his head, and Sarah's misfortune had had very little to 
do with the "King's Head." They had all tried to keep her from 
that man ; it was her own fault. There were worse places than 
the " King's Head." It wasn't for her to abuse it. She had lived 
there seven years ; she had seen her boy growing up — he was 
almost a young man now, and had had the best education. 
That much good the "King's Head" had done. But perhaps it 
was no longer suited to William's health. The betting, she was 
tired thinking about that; and that constant nipping, it was 
impossible for him to keep from it with every one asking him to 
drink with them. A look of fear and distress passed across her 
face and she stopped for a moment. . . . 



330 ESTHER WATERS. 

She was rolling up a pair of curtains. She did not know 
how they were to live, that was the worst of it. If they 
only had back the money they had sunk in the house she 
would not so much mind. That was what was so hard 
to bear; all that money lost, just as if they had thrown 
it into the river. Seven years of hard work — for she had 
worked hard — and nothing to show for it. If she had been 
doing the grand lady all the time it would have been no 
worse. Horses had won and horses had lost — a great deal of 
trouble and fuss and nothing to show for it. That was what 
stuck in her throat. Nothing to show for it. She looked round 
the dismantled walls, she descended the vacant staircase. She 
would never serve another pint of beer in that bar. What a 
strong big fellow he was when she first went to live with him ! 
He was sadly changed. Would she ever see him strong and 
well again? She remembered he had told her that he was 
worth nearly ^"3000. She hadn't brought him luck. He wasn't 
worth anything like that to-day. 

"How much have we in the bank, dear?" 

" A bit over six hundred pounds. I was reckoning of it up 
yesterday. But what do you want to know for ? To remind 
me that I've been losing. Well, I have been losing. I hope 
you're satisfied." 

" I wasn't thinking of such a thing." 

" Yes you was, there's no use saying you wasn't. It ain't my 
fault if the 'orses don't win; I do the best I can." 

She did not answer him. Then he said, " It's my 'ealth that 
makes me irritable, dear ; you aren't angry, are you ? " 

" No, dear, I know you don't mean it, and I don't pay no 
attention to it." She spoke so gently that he looked at her 
surprised, for he remembered her quick temper, and he said, 
" You're the best wife a man ever had." 

14 No, I'm not, Bill, but I tries to do my best." 

The spring was the harshest ever known, and his cough grew 
worse and the blood-spitting returned. Esther grew seriously 
alarmed. Their doctor spoke of Brompton Hospital, and she 
insisted on his going there to be examined. He would not 
have her come with him ; she did not press the point, fearing 
to irritate him, and sat at home waiting anxiously for 
him to return, hoping against hope, for their doctor had told 
her that he feared very long trouble. 

Pale and weak he came up the stairs, and she could tell from 



ESTHER WATERS. 331 

his face and manner that he had bad news for her. She felt all 
her strength leave her, but she conquered her weakness and 
said — 

"Now tell me what they said. I've a right to know; I 
want to know." 

"They said it was consumption." 

"Oh, did they say that?" 

''Yes, but that don't mean that I'm going to die. They said 
they hoped they could patch me up ; people often live for years 
with only half a lung, and it is only the left one that's gone." 

He coughed slightly and wiped the blood from his lips. 
Esther was quite overcome. 

"Now don't look like that," he said, "or I shall fancy I'm 
going to die to-morrow." 

" They said they thought that they could patch you up ? " 

" Yes ; they said I might go on a long while yet, but that I 
would never be the man I was." 

This was so obvious that she could not check a look of pity. 

" If you're going to look at me like that I'd sooner go into 
the hospital at once. It ain't the cheerfulest of places, but it 
will be better than here." 

" I'm sorry it was consumption. But if they said they could 
patch you up, it will be all right. It was a great deal for them 
to say." 

Her duty was to overcome her grief and speak as if the 
doctors had told him that there was nothing the matter that a 
little careful nursing would fail to put right. There was no use 
giving way, they must hope for the best. William had faith 
in the warm weather, and she resolved to put her trust in 
it. But it was hard to see him wasting away before her eyes, 
while she must keep cheerful looks in her face and an accent 
of cheerfulness in her voice ; and the sunshine which had come 
at last seemed to suck up all the life that was in him ; he grew 
paler and withered like a plant. The ever-recurring cough 
and the blood spots on his handkerchief. Then ill-luck 
seemed to have joined in the hunt; he could not "touch" a 
winner, and their fortune drained away with his life. Favour- 
ites and outsiders, it mattered not ; whatever he backed lost ; 
and Esther dreaded the cry, "Win-ner, all the win-ner!" 
He sat on the little balcony in the sunny evenings looking 
down the back street for the boy to appear with the "special." 
Then she had to go and fetch the paper. On the rare 



332 ESTHER WATERS. 

occasion when he won the spectacle was even more painful. 
He brightened up, thin arm and hand moved nervously, and 
he began to make projects and indulge in hopes which she 
knew were vain. 

She insisted, however, on his taking regularly the medicine 
they gave him at the hospital, and this was difficult to do. 
For his irritability increased in measure as he perceived the 
medicine was doing him no good; he found fault with the 
doctors; railed against them unjustly, and all the while the 
little cough continued, and the blood-spitting returned at the 
end of cruel intervals, when he had begun to hope that at least 
that trouble was done with. One morning he told his wife that 
he was going to ask the doctors to examine him again. They 
had spoken of patching up ; but he wanted to know whether 
he were going to live or die. There was a certain relief in 
hearing him speak so plainly; she had had enough of the 
torture of hope, and would like to know the worst. He liked 
better to go to the hospital alone, but she felt that she could 
not sit at home counting the minutes for him to return, and 
begged to be allowed to go with him. To her surprise he 
offered no opposition. She had expected that her request 
would bring about quite a little scene, but he had taken it 
so much as a matter of course that she should accompany him 
that she was doubly glad that she had proposed to go with him ; 
if she hadn't he might have accused her of neglecting him. 
She put on her hat; the day was too hot for a jacket; it was the 
beginning of August ; the town was deserted, and the streets 
looked as if they were about to evaporate or lie down ex- 
hausted, and the poor, dry, dusty air that remained after the 
season w r as too poor even for Esther's healthy lungs ; it made 
William cough, and she hoped the doctors would order him to 
the sea-side. 

From the top of their omnibus they could see right 
across the plateau of the Green Park, dry and colourless 
like a desert; as they descended the hill they noticed that 
autumn was already busy in the foliage; lower down the 
dells were full of fallen leaves. At Hyde Park Corner the 
blown dust whirled about the hill-top ; all along St. George's 
Place glimpses of the empty Park appeared through the rail- 
ings. The wide pavements, the Brompton Road, and a semi- 
detached public-house at the cross-roads announced suburban 
London to the Londoner. 



ESTHER WATERS. 333 

" You see," said William, " where them trees are, where the 
road turns off to the left. That 'ouse is the 'Bell and Horns.' 
That's the sort of house I should like to see you in." 

" It's a pity we didn't buy it when we had the money." 

" Buy it ! that 'ouse is worth ten thousand pounds if it's 
worth a penny." 

"I was once in a situation not far from here. I like the 
Fulham Road ; it's like a long village street, ain't it ? " 

Her first service was with Mrs. Dunbar in Sydney Street, 
and she remembered the square church tower at the Chelsea 
end; a little further on there was the Vestry Hall in the 
King's Road, and then Oakley Street on the left leading down 
to Battersea. Mrs. Dunbar used to go to some gardens at the 
end of the King's Road. Cremorne Gardens, that was the 
name ; there used to be fireworks there, and she had often 
spent the evening at the back window watching the rockets go 
up. That was just before Lady Elwin had got her the situation 
as kitchen-maid at Woodview. She remembered the very shops 
— there was Palmer's the butter man, there was Hyde the 
grocer's. Everything was the same just as she had left it. How 
many years ago ? Fifteen or sixteen. So enwrapped was she 
in memories that William had to touch her. " Here we are," 
he said ; " don't you remember the place ? " 

She remembered very well that great red brick building, 
a centre-piece with two wings, surrounded by high iron 
railings lined with gloomy shrubs. The long straight walks, 
the dismal trees arow, where pale-faced men walked or rested 
feebly, had impressed itself on her young mind — the thin, patient 
men pacing their sepulchre. She had wondered who they 
were, if they would get well; and then, quick with sensation of 
lingering death, she had hurried away on her errands. The low 
wooden yellow-painted gates were unchanged. She had never 
before seen them open, and it was new to her to see the 
gardens filled with bright sunshine and numerous visitors. 
There were flowers in the beds, and the trees were beautiful in 
their leafage. A little yellow was creeping through, and from 
time to time a leaf fell exhausted from the branches. 

William, who was already familiar with the custom of the 
place, nodded to the porter and was let pass without question. 
He did not turn to the principal entrance in the middle of the 
building, but went towards a side entrance.- The house phy- 
sician was standing near there talking with a young man whom 



334 ESTHER WATERS. 

Esther recognised as Mr. Elden. The thought that he too 
might be dying of consumption crossed her mind, but his 
appearance and his healthy, hearty laugh reassured her. A 
stout, common girl, healthy too, came out of the building with 
a child, a little thing of twelve or thirteen with death in her 
face. Mr. Elden stopped them, and in his cheerful, kind manner 
hoped the little one was better. She answered that she was. 
The doctor bade him good-bye, and beckoned William and 
Esther to follow him. Esther would have liked to have spoken 
to Mr. Elden. But he did not see her, and she followed 
her husband, who was talking with the doctor, through the 
doorway into a long passage. At the end of the passage 
there were a number of girls in print dresses. The gaiety of 
the dresses led Esther to think that they must be visitors. But 
the little cough warned her that death was amongst them. As 
she went past she caught sight of a wasted form in a bath-chair. 
The thin hands were laid on the knees, on a little handkerchief, 
and there were spots on the whiteness deeper than the colour 
of the dress. They passed down another passage, meeting a 
sister on their way; pretty and discreet she was in her black 
dress and veil, and she raised her eyes, glancing affectionately at 
the young doctor. No doubt they loved each other. The eternal 
love-story among so much death ! 

Esther wished to be present at the examination, but a 
sudden whim made William say that he would prefer to be 
alone with the doctor, and she returned to the gardens. She 
saw the poor patients under the trees very clearly, and heard 
the little cough very distinctly, now here, now there, it was 
never silent for very long. 

Mr. Elden had not yet gone. He stood with his back turned 
to her. The little girl she had seen him speaking to was sitting 
on a bench under the trees ; she held in her hands a skein of 
yellow worsted which her companion was winding into a ball. 
Two other young women were with them, and all four were 
smiling and whispering and looking towards Mr. Elden. They 
evidently sought to attract his attention, and wished him to 
come and speak to them. Just the natural desire of women 
to please, and moved by the pathos of this poor coquetting, he 
went to them, and Esther could see that they all wanted to talk 
to him. She too would have liked to have spoken to him ; he was 
an old friend. And she walked up the grounds, intending to 
pass by him as she walked back. His back was still turned to 



ESTHER WATERS. 335 

her, and they were all so interested that they gave no heed to 
anything else. One of the young women had an exceedingly 
pretty face. A small oval perfectly snow white, and large blue 
eyes shaded with long dark lashes ; a little aquiline nose ; and 
Esther heard her say, " I should be well enough if it wasn't for 
the cough. It isn't no better since " The cough inter- 
rupted the end of the sentence, and affecting to misunderstand 
her, Mr. Elden said — 

" No better than it was a week ago." 

"A week ago!" said the poor girl. "It is no better since 
Christmas." 

There was surprise in her voice, and the pity of it took Mr. 
Elden in the throat, and it was with difficulty that he answered 
" that he hoped that the present fine weather would enable her 
to get well. Such weather as this," he said, "is as good as 
going abroad." 

This assertion was disputed by one of the women. She had 
been to Australia for her health, and the story of travel was inter- 
spersed by the little coughs, terrible in their apparent insignifi- 
cance. But it was Mr. Elden that the others wished to hear 
speak; they knew all about their companion's trip to Australia, 
and in their impatience their eyes went towards Esther. So 
Mr. Elden became aware of a new presence, and he turned. 

" What ! is it you, Esther ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

" But there doesn't seem much the matter with you. You're 
all right." 

"Yes, I'm all right, sir; it is my husband." 

They walked a few yards up the path. 

"Your husband ! I'm very sorry." 

" He's been an out-door patient for some time ; he's being 
examined by the doctors now." 

" Whom did you marry, Esther?" 

"William Latch, a betting man, sir." 

"You married a betting man, Esther? How curiously 
things do work out ! I remember you were engaged to a 
pious young man, the stationer's foreman. That was 
when you were with Miss Pace; you know, I suppose, that 
she's dead." 

"No, sir, I didn't know it. I've had so much trouble lately 
that I've not been to see her for nearly two years. When did 
she die, sir ? " 



336 ESTHER WATERS. 

" About two months ago. So you married a betting man ! 
Miss Rice did say something about it, but I don't think I 
understood that he was a betting man ; I thought he was a 
publican." 

"So he was, sir. We lost our licence through the 
betting." 

" You say he's being examined by the doctor. Is it a bad 
case ? " 

"I'm afraid it is, sir." 

They walked on in silence until they reached the gate. 

"To me this place is infinitely pathetic. That little cough 
never silent for long. Did you hear that poor girl say with 
surprise that her cough is no better than it was last Christ- 
mas ? " 

"Yes, sir. Poor girl, I don't think she's long for this 
world." 

"But tell me about your husband, Esther," he said, and his 
face filled with an expression of true sympathy. " I'm a 
subscriber, and if your husband would like to become an 
in-door patient, I hope you'll let me know." 

" Thank you, sir ; you was always the kindest, but there's no 
reason why I should trouble you. Some friends of ours have 
already recommended him, and it only rests with himself to 
remain out or go in." 

He pulled out his watch and said, "I am sorry to have 
met you in such sad circumstances, but I'm glad to have 
seen you. It must be seven years or more since you left 
Miss Rice. You haven't changed much, you keep your good 
looks." 

"Oh, sir." 

He laughed at her embarrassment and walked across the 
road hailing a hansom, just as he used to in old times when 
he came to see Miss Rice. The memory of those days 
came back upon her. It was strange to meet him again 
after so many years. She felt she had seen him now for 
the last time. But it was foolish and wicked, too, to think 
of such things ; her husband dying. . . . But she couldn't 
help it; he reminded her of so much of what was past and 
gone. A moment after she dashed these personal tears aside 
and walked open-hearted to meet William. What had the 
doctor said? She must know the truth. If she was to lose 
him she would lose everything. No, not everything ; her boy 



ESTHER WATERS. 33/ 

would still remain to her, and she felt that, after all, her boy 
was what was most real to her in life. These thoughts had 
passed through her mind before William had had time to 
answer her question. 

" He said the left lung was gone, that I'd never be able to 
stand another winter in England. He said I must go to 
Egypt." 

"Egypt," she repeated. "Is that very far from here?' 

" What matter how far it is ! If I can't live in England I 
must go where I can live." 

" Don't be cross, dear. I know it's your health that makes 
you that irritable, but it's hard to bear at times." 

"You won't care to go to Egypt with me." 

" How can you think that, Bill ? Have I ever refused you 
anything?" 

"Quite right, old girl, I'm sorry. I know you'd do any- 
thing for me. I've always said so, haven't I ? It's this cough 
that makes me sharp tempered and fretful. I shall be different 
when I get to Egypt." 

" When do we start ? " 

" If we get away by the end of October it will be all right. 
It will cost a lot of money; the journey is expensive, and we 
shall have to stop there six months. I couldn't think of 
coming home before the end of April." 

Esther did not answer. They walked some yards in silence. 
Then he said — 

"I've been very unlucky lately; there isn't much over a 
hundred pounds in the bank." 

" How much shall we want ? " 

"Three or four hundred pounds at least. We won't take 
the boy with us, we couldn't afford that ; but I should like 
to pay a couple of quarters in advance." 

" That won't be much." 

" Not if I have any luck. The luck must turn, and I have 
some splendid information about the Great Ebor and the 
Yorkshire Stakes. Stack knows of a horse or two that's being 
kept for Sandown. Unfortunately there is not much doing in 
August. I must try to make up the money : it's a matter of 
life and death." 

Esther understood. It was for his very life that her husband 
was now gambling on the race-course. A sensation of very 
great wickedness came up in her mind, but she stifled it 



338 ESTHER WATERS. 

instantly. William had noticed the look of fear that appeared 
in her eyes, and he said — 

" It's my last chance. I can't get the money any other way; 
and I don't want to die yet a while. I haven't been as good 
to you as I'd like, and I want to do something for the boy, you 
know." 

He had been told not to remain out after sundown, but he 
was resolved to leave no stone unturned in his search for 
information, and often he returned home as late as nine 
and ten o'clock at night coughing — Esther could hear him all 
up the street. He came in ready to drop with fatigue. His 
pockets were filled with sporting papers, and these he studied, 
spreading them on the table under the lamp, while Esther sat 
striving to do some needlework. It often dropped out of her 
hands, and her eyes filled with tears. But she took care that 
he should not see these tears ; she did not wish to distress him 
unnecessarily. Poor chap, he had enough to put up with as 
it was. Sometimes he read out the horses' names and asked 
her which she thought would win, which seemed to her a 
likely name. But she begged of him not to ask her; they 
had many quarrels on this subject, but in the end he under- 
stood that it was not fair to ask her. Sometimes Stack and 
Journeyman came in, and they argued about weights and 
distances until midnight; old John came to see them, and every 
day he had heard some new tip. It often rose to Esther's lips 
to tell William to back his fancy and have done with it ; she 
could see that these discussions only fatigued him, that he 
was no nearer to the truth now than he was a fortnight 
ago. Meanwhile the horse he had thought of backing had 
gone up in the betting. But he said that he must be very 
careful. They had 'only a hundred pounds left; he must be 
careful not to risk this money foolishly — it was his very life- 
blood. If he were to lose all this money, he wouldn't only 
sign his own death-warrant, but also hers. He might linger 
on a long while, there was no knowing, but he would never be 
able to do no work, that was certain (unless he went out to 
Egypt); the doctor had said so; and then it would be she who 
would have to support him. And if God were merciful enough 
to take him off at once he would leave her in a worse plight 
than he had found her in, and the boy growing up ! Oh, it 
was terrible ! He buried his face in his hands, and seemed 
quite overcome. Then the cough would take him, and for a 



ESTHER WATERS. 339 

few minutes he could only think of himself. Esther gave him 
a little milk to drink, and he said — 

" There's a hundred pounds left, Esther. It isn't much, but 
it's something. I don't believe that there's much use in my 
going to Egypt. I shall never get well. It was better that 
I should pitch myself into the river. That would be the least 
selfish way out of it." 

" William, I'll not have you talk in that way," Esther said, 
laying down her work and going over to him. " If you was to 
do such a thing I should never forgive you. I could never 
think the same of you." 

" All right, old girl, don't be frightened. I've been thinking 
too much about them horses, and am a bit depressed. I dare- 
say it will come out all right. I think that Mahomet is sure to 
win the Great Ebor, don't you ? " 

" I don't think there's no better judge than yourself. They 
all say if he don't fall lame that he's bound to win." 

"Then Mahomet shall carry money. I'll back him to- 
morrow." 

Now that he had made up his mind what horse to back his 
spirits revived. He was able to dismiss the subject from his 
mind, and they talked of other things, of their son, and they 
laid projects for his welfare. But on the day of the race, from 
early morning, William could barely contain himself. Usually 
he took his winnings and losings very quietly. When he 
had been especially unlucky he swore a bit, but Esther had 
never seen any great excitement before a race was run. The 
issues of this race were extraordinary, and it was heart-breaking 
to see him suffer; he could not remain still a moment. A 
prey to all the terrors of hope, exhausted with anticipation, he 
rested himself against the sideboard and wiped drops of sweat 
from his forehead. A broiling sunlight infested their window 
panes, the room grew oven-like, and he was obliged at last to 
go into the back parlour and lie down. He lay there quite 
exhausted in his shirt sleeves, hardly able to breathe ; the arm 
once so strong and healthy was shrunken to a little nothing ; it 
was yellow tinted, and his face too was yellow; he seemed 
quite bloodless. Looking at him, Esther could hardly hope 
that any climate would restore him to health. He just asked 
her what the time was, and said "The race is being run now." 
A few minutes after he said, " I think Mahomet has won. I 
fancied I saw him get first past the post." He spoke as if he 



340 ESTHER WATERS. 

were sure, and said nothing about the evening paper. If he 
were disappointed, Esther felt that it would kill him, and she 
knelt down by the bedside and prayed that God would allow 
the horse to win. It meant her husband's life, that was all 
she knew. Oh, that the horse might win ! Presently he said, 
" There's no use praying, I feel sure it is all right. Go into 
the next room, stand on the balcony so that you may see the 
boy coming along." 

From the scrap of balcony she could see a long way down 
the brick neighbourhood. A pale yellow sky rose behind 
London, and with agonised soul the woman viewed its plausive 
serenity. There seemed to be hope in its quietness. At that 
moment the cry came up, "Win-ner, all the win-ner." It 
came from the north, from the east, and now from the west. 
Three boys were shouting forth the news simultaneously. Ah, 
if it should prove bad news. But somehow she too felt that 
the news was good. She ran to meet the boy. She had a 
halfpenny ready in her hand ; he fumbled, striving to detach a 
single paper from the quire under his arm. Seeing her im- 
patience, he said "Mahomet's won." Then the pavement 
seemed to slide beneath her feet, and the setting sun she could 
hardly see, so full was her heart, so burdened with the happiness 
that she was bringing to the poor sick fellow who lay in his shirt 
sleeves on the bed in the back room. "It's all right," she 
said. " I thought so too \ it seemed like it." His face flushed, 
life seemed to come back. He sat up and took the paper 
from her. "There," he said, "I've got my place-money too. 
I hope Stack and Journeyman come in to-night. I'd like 
to have a chat about this. Come, give me a kiss, dear. I'm 
not going to die after all. It isn't a pleasant thing to think 
that you must die, that there's no hope for you, that you must 
go underground." 

The next thing to do was to pick the winner of the Yorkshire 
Handicap. In this he was not successful, but he backed several 
winners at Sandown Park, and at the close of the week had 
made nearly enough to take him to Egypt. 

The Doncaster week, however, proved disastrous. He lost 
most of his winnings, and had to look forward to retrieving 
his fortunes at Newmarket. "The worst of it is, if I don't 
make up the money by October it will be no use. They say 
the November fogs will polish me off." 

Between Doncaster and Newmarket he lost a bet, and this 



ESTHER WATERS. 341 

bet carried him back into despondency. He felt it was no 
use struggling against fate. Better remain in London and 
be taken away at the end of November or December; he 
couldn't last much longer than that. This would allow 
him to leave Esther at least fifty pounds to go on with. 
The boy would soon be able to earn money. It would be 
better so. No use wasting all this money for the sake 
of his health, which wasn't worth twopence three farthings. 
It was like throwing sovereigns after farthings. He didn't 
want to do no betting; he was as hollow as a shell inside, 
he could feel it. Egypt could do nothing for him, and as he 
had to go, better sooner than later. Esther argued with him. 
What should she have to live for if he was taken from her ? 
The doctors had said that Egypt might set him right. She 
didn't know much about such things, but she had always heard 
that it was extraordinary how people got cured out there. 

"That's true," he said. "I've heard that people who 
couldn't live a week in England, who haven't the length 
of your finger of lung left, can go on all right out there. I 
might get something to do out there, and the boy might come 
out after us." 

" That's the way I like to hear you talk. Who knows, at 
Newmarket we might have luck ! Just one big bet, a winner 
at fifty to one, that's all we want." 

" That's just what has been passing in my mind. I've got 
particular information about the Cesarewitch and Cambridge- 
shire. I could get the price you speak of— fifty to one against 
the two, Matchbox and Chasuble — the double event, you know. 
I'm inclined to go it. It's my last chance." 



342 ESTHER WATERS. 



XLIV. 

When Matchbox galloped home the winner of the Cesare- 
witch by five lengths, William was lying in his bed, seemingly 
at death's door. He had remained out late one evening, had 
caught cold, and his mouth was constantly filled with blood. 
He was much worse, and could hardly take notice of the good 
news. When he revived a little he said, " It has come too 
late." But when Chasuble was backed to win thousands 
at ten to one, and Journeyman and Stack assured him that the 
stable was quite confident of being able to pull it off, his spirits 
revived. He spoke of hedging. " If," he said to Esther, " 1 
was to get out at eight or nine to one I should be able to leave 
you something, you know, in case of accidents." But he would 
not entrust laying off his bet to either Stack or Journeyman; 
he spoke of a cab and seeing to it himself. If he did this the 
doctor assured him that it would not much matter to him 
whether Chasuble won or lost. " The best thing he could do," 
the doctor said, " would be to become an in-door patient at 
once. In the hospital he would be in an equable temperature, 
and he would receive an attention which he could not get at 
home." 

William did not like going into the hospital ; it would be a 
bad omen. If he did, he felt sure that Chasuble would not 
win. 

"What has going or not going to the hospital to do with 
Chasuble's chance of winning the Cambridgeshire ? " said the 
doctor. " This window is loose in it's sash, a draught comes 
under the door, and if you close out the draughts the atmo- 
sphere of the room becomes stuffy. You're thinking of going 
abroad; a fortnight's nice rest is just what you want to set 
you up for your journey." 

William allowed himself to be persuaded ; he was taken to 
the hospital, and Esther remained at home waiting for the 






ESTHER WATERS. 343 

fateful afternoon. Nov/ that the dying man was taken from 
her she had no work to distract her thought ; it lay like fire 
upon her brain. The unanswerable question would Chasuble 
win was always before her. She saw the slender greyhound 
creatures as she had seen them at Epsom through a sea of 
heads and hats, and she asked herself if Chasuble was the 
brown horse that had galloped in first, or the chestnut that 
had trotted in last. She often thought she was going mad, 
her head seemed like it — a sensation of splitting like a piece 
of calico. . . . She went to see her boy. He was a great tall 
fellow of fifteen, and had happily lost none of his affection for 
his mother. A great sweetness rose up within her. She looked 
at his long straight yellow-stockinged legs; she settled the 
collar of his cloak, and slipped her fingers into his leathern 
belt as they walked side by side. He was bare-headed, 
according to the fashion of his school, and she kissed the 
wild dark curls with which his head was run over; they 
were much lighter in colour when he was a little boy — those 
days when she slaved seventeen hours a day for his dear 
life! But he paid her back tenfold for the hardship she had 
undergone. 

She listened to the excellent report his masters gave of 
his progress, and walked through the quadrangles and the 
corridors with him, thinking of the sound of his voice as he 
told her the story of his classes and his studies. She 
must live for him; though for herself she had had enough 
of life. But, thank God, she had her darling boy, and 
whatever unhappiness there might be in store for her she 
would bear it for his sake. He knew that his father was 
ill, but she refrained and told him no word of the 
tragedy that was hanging over them. The noble instincts 
which were so intrinsically Esther Waters' told her that it 
were a pity to soil at the outset a young life with a sordid 
story, and though it would have been an inexpressible relief 
to her to have shared her trouble with her boy, she forced 
back her tears and courageously bore her cross alone without 
once allowing its edge to touch him. 

Every day that visitors were allowed she went to the hospital 
with the newspaper containing the latest betting. " Chasuble, 
10 to i taken," William read out. The mare had advanced 
three points in the betting, and William looked at her inquir- 
ingly, and with hope in his eyes. 



344 ESTHER WATERS. 

" I think she'll win," he said, raising himself in his cane 
chair. 

" I hope so, dear," she murmured, and she settled his 
cushions. 

Two days after the mare was back again at 13 to 1 taken 
and offered; she even went back as far as 18 to 1, and 
then returned for a while to 12 to 1. This fluctuation 
meant that something was wrong, and William began to lose 
hope. But on the following day the mare was backed to win 
a good deal of money at Tattersall's, and once more she stood 
at 10 to 1. Seeing her back at the old price made William 
look so hopeful that a patient stopped as he passed down 
the corridor, and catching sight of the Sportsman on William's 
lap, he asked him if he was interested in racing. William 
told him that he was, and that if Chasuble won he would be 
able to go to Egypt. 

" Them that has money can buy 'ealth as well as everything 
else. We'd all get well if we could get out there." 

William told how much he stood to win. 

"That'll keep you going long enough to set you straight. 
You say the mare's backed at 10 to 1 ; 200 to 20. I 
wonder if I could get the money. I might sell up the 
'ouse." 

But before he had time to realise the necessary money the 
mare was driven back to 18 to 1, and he said — 

"She won't win. I might as well leave the wife in the 
'ouse. There's no luck for them that comes 'ere." 

On the day of the race Esther walked through the streets 
like one daft, stupidly interested in the passers-by and the 
disputes that arose between drivers of cabs and omnibuses. 
Now and then her thoughts collected, and it seemed to her 
impossible that the mare should win. If she did they would 
have .£2500, and would go to Egypt. But she could not 
imagine such a thing ; it seemed so much more natural that 
the horse should lose, and that her husband should die, and 
that she should have to face the world once more. She 
offered up prayers that Chasuble might win, although it did 
not seem right to address God on the subject, but her heart 
often felt like breaking, and she had to do something. And 
she had no doubt that God would forgive her. But now that 
the day had come she did not feel as if He had granted her 
request. At the same time it did not seem possible that her 



ESTHER WATERS. 345 

husband was going to die. It was all so hard to under- 
stand. 

She stopped at the " Bell and Horns " to see what the time 
was, and was surprised to find it was half-an-hour later than 
she had expected. The race was being run, Chasuble's hoofs 
were deciding whether her husband was to live or die. It was 
on the wire by this time. The wires were distinct upon a 
blue and dove coloured sky. Did that one go to Newmarket, 
or the other? Which? 

The red building came in sight. A patient walked slowly 
up the walk, his back turned to her; another had sat down to 
rest. She remembered sixteen years ago patients were walking 
there then, and the leaves were scattering then just the same 
as now. . . . Without transition of thought she wondered when 
the first boy would appear with the news. William was not in 
the grounds; he was upstairs behind those windows. Poor 
fellow, she could fancy him sitting there. Perhaps he was 
watching for her out of one of those windows. But there 
was no use her going up until she had the news; she must 
wait for the paper. She walked up and down listening for the 
cry. Every now and then expectation led her to mistake some 
ordinary cry for the terrible " Win-ner, all the win-ner," with 
which the whole town would echo in a few minutes. She 
hastened forward. No, it was not it. At last she heard the 
word shrieked behind her. She hastened after the boy, but 
failed to overtake him. As she returned she met another. 
She gave him a halfpenny and took a paper. Then she re- 
membered she must ask the boy to tell her who had won. But 
heedless of her question he had run across the road to sell 
papers to some men who had come out of a public-house. 
She walked towards the hospital and entered the gates. She 
must not give William the paper and wait for him to read the 
news to her. If the news were bad the shock might kill him. 
She must learn first what the news was, so that her face and 
manner might prepare him for the worst if need be. So she 
offered the paper to the porter and asked him to tell her : 
Bramble, King of Trumps, Young Hopeful, he read out. 

"Are you sure that Chasuble hasn't won?" 

" Of course I'm sure, there it is." 

" I can't read," she said as she turned away. 

The news had stunned her; the world seemed to lose 
reality ; she was uncertain what to do, and several times 



346 ESTHER WATERS. 

lepeated to herself, "There's nothing for it but to go up 
and tell him. I don't see what else I can do." The stair- 
case was very steep; she climbed it slowly, and stopped at 
the first landing and looked out of the window. A poor hollow- 
chested creature, the wreck of a human being, struggled up 
behind her. He had to rest several times, and in the hollow 
building his cough sounded loud and hollow. " It isn't gener- 
ally so loud as that," she thought, and wondered how she could 
tell William the news. " He wanted to see Jack grow up to 
be a man. He thought that we might all go to Egypt, 
and that he'd get quite well there, for there's plenty of 
sunshine there, but now he'll have to make up his mind to 
die in the November fogs." Her thoughts came strangely 
clear and she was astonished at her indifference, until a sudden 
revulsion of feeling took her as she was going up the last 
flight. She couldn't tell him the news ; it was too cruel. She 
let the patient pass her, and when alone on the landing she 
looked down into the depth. She thought she'd like to fall 
over; anything rather than to do what she knew she must 
do. But her cowardice only endured for a moment, and 
with a firm step she walked into the corridor. It seemed to 
cross the entire building, and was floored and wainscotted 
with the same brown varnished wood as the staircase. There 
were benches along the w r alls ; and emaciated and worn-out 
men lay on the long cane chairs in the windowed recesses by 
which the passage was lighted. The wards, containing some- 
times three, sometimes six or seven beds, opened on to this 
passage. The doors of the wards were all open, and as she 
passed along she started at the sight of a boy sitting up in 
bed. His head had been shaved, and only a slight bristle 
covered the crown. The head and face were a large white 
mass, with two eyes of shocking vacancy. 

At the end of the passage there was a window; and 
William sat there reading a book. He saw her before she 
saw him, and when she caught sight of him she stopped 
instinctively. She held the paper loose before her between 
finger and thumb, and as she approached she saw that her 
manner had already broken the news to him. 

" I see that she didn't win," he said. 

" No, dear, she didn't win. We wasn't lucky this time ; 
next time " 

" There is no next time, at least for me. I shall be far 






ESTHER WATERS. 347 

away from here when flat racing begins again. The Novem- 
ber fogs will do for me. I feel that they will. 1 hope that 
there'll be no lingering, that's all. Better to know the worst 
and make up your mind. So I have to go, have I ? So 
there's no hope, and I shall be underground before the 
next meeting. I shall never lay or take the odds again. It 
do seem strange. If only that mare had won. I knew damned 
well she wouldn't if I came here." 

Then, catching sight of the pained look on his wife's face, 
he said : " I don't suppose it made no difference ; it was to 
be, and what has to be has to be. I've to go underground. 
I felt it was to be all along. Egypt would have done me 
no good ; I never believed in it ; only a lot of false hope. 
You don't think what I say is true. Look 'ere, do you know 
what book this is? — this is the Bible ; that'll prove to you that 
I knew the game was up. I knew, I can't tell you how, but 
I knew the mare wouldn't win. One always seems to know. 
Even when I backed her I didn't feel about her like I did 
about the other one, and ever since I've been feeling more 
and more sure that it wasn't to be. Somehow it didn't seem 
likely, and to-day something told me that the game was up, 
so I asked for this book. . . . There's wonderful beautiful 
things in it." 

" There is indeed, Bill; and I hope you won't get tired of it, 
but will go on reading it." 

" It's extraordinary how consoling it is. Listen to this?" 

" Isn't it beautiful ; ain't them words 'eavenly ? " 

11 They is indeed. I knew you'd come to God at last." 

" I'm afraid I've not led a good life. I wouldn't listen to 
you when you used to tell me of the lot of harm the betting 
used to bring on the poor people what used to come to our 
place. There's Sarah, I suppose she's out of prison by this. 
You've seen nothing of her, I suppose ? " 

" No, nothing." 

" There was Ketley." 

" No, Bill, don't let's think about it. If you're truly sorry, 
God will forgive." 

" Do you think He will — and the others that we know 
nothing about. I wouldn't listen to you; I was headstrong, but 
I understand it all now. My eyes 'ave been opened. Them 
pious folk that got up the prosecution knew what they was 
about. I forgive them one and all." 



34 S ESTHER WATERS. 

William coughed a little. The conversation paused, and the 
cough was repeated down the corridor. Now it came from 
the men lying on the long cane chairs ; now from the poor 
emaciated creature, hollow cheeks, brown eyes, and beard, 
who had just come out of his ward and had sat down on 
a bench by the wall. Now it came from an old man six feet 
high with snow-white hair. He sat near them, and worked 
assiduously at a piece of tapestry. " It'll be better when it's 
cut," he said to one of the nurses who had stopped to compli- 
ment him on his work; ''it'll be better when it's cut." Then 
the cough came from one of the wards, and Esther thought 
of the fearsome boy sitting bolt up, his huge tallow-like face 
staring through the silence ©f the room. A moment after the 
cough came from her husband's lips, and they looked at each 
other. Both wanted to speak, and neither knew what to say. 
At last William spoke — 

" I was saying that I never had that feeling about Chasuble 
as one 'as about a winner. Did she run second ? Just like my 
luck if she did. Let me see the paper." 

Esther handed it to him 

" Bramble, a fifty to one chance, not one man in a hundred 
backed her; King of Trumps, there was some place-money lost 
on him ; Young Hopeful, a rank outsider. What a day for the 
bookies ! " 

" You mustn't think of them things no more," said Esther. 
" You've got the Book ; it'll do you more good." 

" If I'd only thought of Bramble ... I could have had a 
hundred to one against Matchbox and Bramble coupled." 

"What's the use of thinking of things that's over? We 
should think of the future." 

" If I'd only been able to hedge that bet I should have been 
able to leave you something to go on with, but now, when 
everything is paid for, you'll have hardly a five-pound note. 
... I can't help thinking about it. You've been a good wife 
to me, and I've been a bad husband to you." 

" Bill, you mustn't speak like that. You must try to make 
your peace with God. Think of Him ! He'll think of us that 
you leave behind. I've always had faith in Him. He'll not 
desert me." 

Her eyes were quite dry ; the instinct of life seemed to have 
left her. They spoke some little while longer until it was time 
for visitors to leave the hospital. It was not until she got into 






ESTHER WATERS. 



349 



the Fulham Road that tears began to run down her cheeks; 
they poured faster and faster, like rain after long dry weather. 
The whole world disappeared in a mist of tears. And so over- 
come was she by her grief that she had to lean against the 
railings, and then the passers-by turned and looked at her 
curiously. 



350 ESTHER WATERS. 



XLV. 

With fair weather he might hold on till Christmas, but if much 
fog was about he would go off with the last leaves. One day 
Esther received a letter asking her to defer her visit from 
Friday to Sunday. He hoped to be better on Sunday, and 
then they would arrange when she should come to take him 
away. He begged of her to have Jack home to meet him. 
He wanted to see his boy before he died. 

Mrs. Collins, a woman who lived in the next room, read the 
letter to Esther. 

" If you can, do as he wishes. Once they gets them fancies 
into their heads there's no getting them out." 

"If he leaves the hospital on a day like this it'll be the 
death of him." 

Both women went to the window. The fog was so thick 
that only an outline here and there was visible of the houses 
opposite. The lamps burnt low, mournful, as in a city of the 
dead, and the sounds that rose out of the street added to the 
terror of the strange darkness. 

"What do he say about Jack? That I'm to send for him. 
It's natural he should like to see the boy before he goes, but 
it would be cheerfuller to take him to the hospital." 

" You see, he wants to die at home ; he wants you to be 
with him at the last." 

" Yes, I want to see the last of him. But the boy, where's 
he to sleep ? " 

" We can lay a mattress down in my room — an old woman 
like me, it don't matter." 

Sunday morning was harsh and cold, and when she came out 
of South Kensington Station a fog was rising in the squares, 
and a great whiff of yellow cloud drifted down upon the house 
tops. In the Fulham Road the tops of the houses disappeared, 
and the light of the third gas-lamp was not visible. 



ESTHER WATERS. 35 I 

Esther's heart sank, and she said as she hastened along : 
"This is the sort of weather that takes them off. I can hardly 
breathe it myself." 

Everything was shadow-like; those walking in front of her 
passed out of sight like shades, and once she thought she must 
have missed her way, though that was impossible, for her way 
was quite straight. . . . Suddenly the silhouette of the winged 
building rose up enormous on the sulphur sky. The low-lying 
gardens were full of poisonous vapour, and the thin trees 
seemed like the ghosts of consumptive men. The porter 
coughed like a dead man as she passed, and he said, " Bad 
weather for the poor sick ones upstairs." 

She was prepared for a change for the worse, but she 
did not expect to see a living man looking so like a dead 
one. 

He could no longer lie back in bed and breathe, so he was 
propped up with pillows, and he looked even as shadow-like as 
those she had half seen in the fog-cloud. There was fog even 
in the ward, and the lights burned red in the silence. There 
were five beds, low iron bedsteads ; each was covered with a 
dark red rug. In the furthest corner lay the wreck of a great 
working man. He wore his hob-nails and his corduroys, and 
his once brawny arm lay along his thigh, shrivelled and power- 
less as a child's. In the middle of the room a little clerk, 
wasted and weary, without any strength at all, lay striving for 
breath. The navvy was alone ; the little clerk had his family 
round him, his wife and his two children, a baby in arms and a 
little boy three years old. The doctor had just come in, and 
the woman was prattling gaily about her confinement. She 
said — ■ 

" I was up the following week. Wonderful what we women 
can go through. No one would think it. ... I brought the 
childer to see their father ; they is a little idol to him, poor 
fellow." 

" How are you to-day, dearie ? " Esther said, as she took a 
seat by her husband's bed. 

" Better than I was on Friday, but this weather '11 do for me 
if it continues much longer. . . . You see them two beds ? 
They died yesterday, and I've 'eard that three or four that 
left the hospital are gone too." 

The doctor came to William's bed. "Well, are you still 
determined to go home ? " he said. 



352 ESTHER WATERS. 

■ " Yes ; I'd like to die at home. You can't do nothing for 
me. ... I'd like to die at home ; I want to see my boy." 

" You can see Jack here," said Esther. 

" I'd sooner see him at 'ome. ... I suppose you don't want 
the trouble of a death in the 'ouse." 

" Oh, William, how can you speak so ! " The patient 
coughed painfully and leaned against the pillows, unable to 
speak. 

Esther remained with William till the time permitted to 
visitors had expired. He could not speak to her, but she 
knew he liked her to be with him. 

When she came on Thursday to take him away he was 
a little better. The clerk's wife was chattering ; the great 
navvy lay in the corner, still as a block of stone. Esther 
often looked at him and wondered if he had no friend who 
could spare an hour to come and see him. 

"I was beginning to think that you wasn't coming," said 
William. 

"He's that restless," said the clerk's wife; "asking the time 
every three or four minutes." 

" How could you think that ? " said Esther. 

" I dun know . . . you're a bit late, aren't you ? " 

" It often do make them that restless," said the clerk's wife. 
" But my poor old man is quiet enough — aren't you, dear ? " 
The dying clerk could not answer, and the woman turned again 
to Esther. 

" And how do you find him to-day ? " 

"Much the same. ... I think he's a bit better; stronger, 
don't yer know. But this weather is that trying. I don't 
know how it was up your way, but down my way I never seed 
such a fog. I thought I'd have to turn back." At that moment 
the baby began to cry, and the woman walked up and down the 
ward, rocking it violently, talking loud, and making a great deal 
of noise. But she could not quiet him. ..." Hungry again," 
she said. " I never seed such a child for the breast," and she 
sat down and unbuttoned her dress. When the young doctor 
entered she hurriedly covered herself; he begged her to con- 
tinue, and spoke about her little boy. She showed him a 
scar on his throat. He had been suffering, but it was all 
right now. The doctor glanced at the breathless father. 

" A little better to-day, thank you, doctor." 

" That's all right ; " and the doctor went over to William. 



ESTHER WATERS. 353 

" Are you still determined to leave the hospital ? " he said. 

" Yes, I want to go home. I want to " 

" You'll find this weather very trying ; you'd better " 

" No, thank you, sir. I should like to go home. You've 
been very kind ; you've done everything that could be done 
for me. But it's God's will. . . . My wife is very grateful 
to you too." 

" Yes, indeed I am, sir. However am I to thank you for 
your kindness to my husband ? " 

" I'm sorry I couldn't do more. But you'll want the sister 
to help you to dress him. I'll send her to you." 

When they got him out of bed, Esther was shocked at 
the spectacle of his poor body. There was nothing left of 
him. His poor chest, his wasted ribs, his legs gone to 
nothing, and the strange weakness, worst of all, which made 
it so hard for them to dress him. At last it was nearly done ; 
Esther laced one boot, the nurse the other, and, leaning on 
Esther's arm, he looked round the room for the last time. 
The navvy turned round on his bed and said— 

" Good-bye, mate." 

"Good-bye. . . . Good-bye all." 

The clerk's little son clung to his mother's skirts, frightened 
at the weakness of so big a man. 

" Go and say good-bye to the gentleman." 

The little boy came forward timidly, offering his hand. 
William looked at the poor white little face ; he nodded to 
the father and went out. 

As he went downstairs he said he would like to go home in a 
hansom. The doctor and nurse expostulated, but he persisted 
until Esther begged of him to forego the wish for her sake. 

" They do rattle so these four-wheelers, especially when the 
windows are up. One can't speak." 

The cab jogged up Piccadilly, and as it climbed out of 
the hollow the dying man's eyes were fixed on the circle 
of light that shone across the green park. They looked 
like a distant village, and Esther wondered if William was 
thinking of Shoreham — she had seen Shoreham look like 
that sometimes — or if he was thinking that he was looking 
on London for the last time. Was he saying to himself, 
"I shall never, never see Piccadilly again"? " They passed 
St. James's Street. The Circus, with its mob of prostitutes, 
came into view; the Criterion bar, with its loafers standing 

2 3 



354 ESTHER WATERS. 

outside. William leaned a little forward, and Esther was 
sure he was thinking that he would never go into that bar 
again. The cab turned to the left, and Esther said that 
it would cross Soho, perhaps pass down Old Compton 
Street, opposite their old house. So it happened. Esther 
and William looked at each other. Who were they who 
were selling beer and whisky in their bar? Boys were cry- 
ing, " Win-ner, all the win-ner ! " 

" The was run to-day. Flat racing all over, all over 

for this year." 

Esther did not answer. The cab passed over a piece of 
asphalte, and he said — 

" Is Jack waiting for us ? M 

" Yes, he came home yesterday." 

The fog was thick in Bloomsbury, and when he got out of 
the cab he was taken with a fit of coughing and had to cling 
to the railings. She had to pay the cab and it took some 
time to find the money. Would no one open the door? She 
was surprised to see him make his way up the steps to the 
bell, and having got her change, she followed him into the 
house. He would not let her help him upstairs. 

" I can manage. Go on first ; I'll follow." 

And stopping every three or four steps for rest he slowly 
dragged himself up to the first landing. She asked him if she 
should fetch a chair. A door opened and Jack stood on the 
threshold of the lighted room. 

" Is that you, mother ? " 

" Yes, dear; your father is coming up." 

The boy came forward to help, but his mother whispered, 
" He'd rather come up by himself." 

William had just strength to walk into the room ; they gave 
him a chair and he fell back exhausted. He looked round 
and seemed pleased to see his home again. Esther gave 
him some milk, into which she had put a little brandy, and 
he gradually revived. 

11 Come this way, Jack ; I want to look at you ; come into 
the light where I can see you." . 

" Yes, father." 

<{ I haven't long to see you, Jack. I wanted to be with you 
and your mother in our own home. I can talk a little now j I 
may not be able to to-morrow." 

"Yes, father." 



ESTHER WATERS. 355 

" I want you to promise me, Jack, that you'll never have 
nothing to do with racing and betting. It hasn't brought me 
or your mother any luck." 

"Very well, father." 

"You promise me, Jack. Give me your hand. You 
promise me that, Jack." 

" Yes, father, I promise." 

" I see it all clearly enough now. Your mother, Jack, is the 
best woman in the world. She loved you better than I did. 
She worked for you — that is a sad story. I hope you'll never 
hear it." 

Husband and wife looked at each other, and in that look 
the wife promised the husband that the son should never 
know the story of her desertion. 

" She was always against the betting, Jack; she always knew 
it would bring us ill-luck. I was once well off, but I lost 
everything. No good comes of money that one doesn't work 
for." 

"I'm sure you worked enough for what you won," said 
Esther; "travelling day and night from race-course to race- 
course. Standing on them race-courses in all weathers; it was 
the colds you caught standing on them race-courses that began 
the mischief." 

"I worked hard enough, that's true; but it was not the 
right kind of work. ... I can't argue, Esther. . . . But I 
know the truth now, what you always said was the truth. No 
good comes of money that hasn't been properly earned." 

He sipped the brandy-and-milk and looked at Jack, who 
was crying bitterly. 

" You mustn't cry like that, Jack; I want you to listen to me. 
I've still something on my mind. Your mother, Jack, is the 
best woman that ever lived. You're too young to understand 
how good. I didn't know how good for a long time, but I 
found it all out in time, as you will later, Jack, when you are 
a man. I'd hoped to see you grow up to be a man, Jack, and 
your mother and I thought that you'd have a nice bit of 
money. But the money I hoped to leave you is all gone. 
What I feel most is that I'm leaving you and your mother as 
badly off as she was when I married her." He heaved a deep 
sigh, and Esther said — 

"What is the good of talking of these things, weakening 
yourself for nothing ? " 



356 ESTHER WATERS. 

" I must speak, Esther. I should die happy if I knew how 
you and the boy was going to live. You'll have to go out and 
work for him as you did before. It will be like beginning it 
all again." 

The tears rolled downs his cheeks; he buried his face in his 
hands and sobbed until the sobbing brought on a fit of 
coughing. Suddenly his mouth filled with blood. Jack went 
for the doctor, and all remedies were tried without avail. 
"There is one more remedy," the doctor said, "and if that 
fails you must prepare for the worst." But this last remedy 
proved successful, and the haemorrhage was stopped and 
William was undressed and put to bed. The doctor said, 
" He mustn't get up to-morrow." 

" You lie in bed to-morrow and try. to get up your strength. 
You've overdone yourself to-day." 

She had drawn his bed into the warmest corner, close by 
the fire, and had made up for herself a sort of bed by the 
window, where she might doze a bit, for she did not expect to 
get much sleep. She would have to be up and down many 
times to settle his pillows and give him milk or a little weak 
brandy-and-water. 

Night wore away, the morning grew into day, and about 
twelve o'clock he insisted on getting up. She tried to per- 
suade him, but he said he could not stop in bed ; and 
there was nothing for it but to ask Mrs. Collins to help 
her to dress him. They placed him comfortably in a chair. 
The cough had entirely ceased, and he seemed better. And 
on Saturday night he slept better than he had done for 
a long while, and woke up on Sunday morning refreshed 
and apparently much stronger. He had a nice bit of 
boiled rabbit for his dinner. He didn't speak much ; Esther 
fancied that he was still thinking of them. When the after- 
noon waned about four o'clock he called Jack ; he told him to 
sit in the light where he could see him, and he looked at his 
son with such wistful eyes. These farewells were very sad, 
and Esther had to turn aside to hide her tears. 

" I should have liked to have seen you a man, Jack." 

" Don't speak like that — I can't bear it," said the poor boy, 
bursting into tears. " Perhaps you won't die yet." 

" Yes, Jack ; I'm wore out. I can feel," he said, pointing to 
his chest, "that there is nothing here to live upon. . . . It is 
the punishment come upon me." 



ESTHER WATERS. 357 

" Punishment for what, father ? " 

11 1 wasn't always good to your mother, Jack." 

" If to please me, William, you'll say no more." 

"The boy ought to know; it will be a lesson for him, and 
it weighs upon my heart." 

11 1 don't want my boy to hear anything bad about his father, 
and I forbid him to listen." 

The conversation paused, and soon after William said that 
his strength was going from him, and that he w T ould like to go 
back to bed. Esther helped him off with his clothes, and 
together she and Jack lifted him into bed. He sat up looking 
at them with wistful, dying eyes. 

" It is hard to part from you," he said. " If Chasuble had 
won we would have all gone to Egypt. I could have lived out 
there." 

"You must speak of them things no more. We all must 
obey God's will." Esther dropped on her knees ; she drew 
Jack down beside her, and William asked Jack to read some- 
thing from the Bible. Jack read where he first opened the 
Book, and when he had finished William said that he liked 
to listen. Jack's voice sounded to him like heaven. 

About eight o'clock William bade his son good-night. 

"Good-night, my boy; perhaps we shan't see each other 
again. This may be my last night." 

" I won't leave you, father." 

"No, my boy, go to your bed. I feel I'd like to be alone 
with mother." The voice sank almost to a whisper. 

"You'll remember what you promised me about racing. . . . 
Be good to your mother — she's the best mother a son ever had." 

" I'll work for mother, father, I'll work for her." 

"You're too young, my son, but when you're older I hope 
you'll work for her. She worked for you. . . . Good-bye, my 
boy" 

The dying man sweated profusely, and Esther wiped his face 
from time to time. Mrs. Collins came in. She had a large 
tin candlestick in her hand in which there was a fragment of 
candle end. He motioned to her to put it aside. She put it 
on the table out of the way of his eyes. 

" You'll help Esther to lay me out. ... I don't want any 
one else. I don't like the other woman." 

" Esther and me will lay you out, make your mind easy; none 
but we two shall touch you." 



358 ESTHER WATERS. 

Once more Esther wiped his forehead, and he signed to her 
how he wished the bed-clothes to be arranged, for he could no 
longer speak. Mrs. Collins whispered to Esther that she 
didn't think that the end could be far off, and compelled by 
a morbid sort of curiosity she took a chair and sat down. 
Esther wiped away the little drops of sweat as they came upon 
his forehead ; his chest and throat had to be wiped also, for 
they too were full of sweat. His eyes were fixed on the dark- 
ness and he moved his hand restlessly, and Esther always 
understood what he wanted. She gave him a little brandy-and- 
water, and when he could not take it from the glass she gave 
it to him with a spoon. 

These doses kept him alive until nearly ten. The clock on 
the mantelpiece struck ten sharp strokes and she turned from 
the bedside for the brandy. Mrs. Collins' candle spluttered 
and went out ; a little thread of smoke evaporated, leaving 
only a morsel of blackened wick. The flame had disappeared 
for ever, gone as if it had never been. Esther saw darkness 
where there had been a light, and she heard Mrs. Collins 
say — 

" I think it is all over, dear." 

She turned suddenly. 

His head had fallen a little on one side. 

"You think he's dead?" 

"Yes, I always knows when they've gone by that cold earthy 
look that comes on their faces. But we can soon tell for 
certain if you've got a 'andglass." 

Esther did not answer, and Mrs. Collins said — 

"I'll get one upstairs." 

The profile on the pillow seemed very little. 

Mrs. Collins came down with the glass in her hand. 

"Hold up his head, so that if there is any breath it may 
come on the glass." Esther did so. 

"He's dead, right enough. You see, dear, there's not a 
trace of breath on the glass." 

" I'd like to say a prayer. Will you say a prayer with me ? " 

'Yes, I feel as if I should like to myself; it eases the heart 
wonderful." 



ESTHER WATERS. 359 



XLVI. 

She stood on the platform watching the receding train. A few 
bushes hid the curve of the line ; the white vapour rose above 
them evaporating in the grey evening. A moment more and 
the last carriage would pass out of sight. The white gates 
swung slowly forward and closed over the line. 

An oblong box painted reddish brown lay on the seat beside 
her. A woman of seven or eight-and-thirty, stout and strongly 
built, short arms and hard-worked hands, dressed in dingy 
black skirt and a threadbare jacket too thin for the dampness 
of a November day. Her face was a blunt outline, and the 
grey eyes reflected all the natural prose of the Saxon. 

The porter told her that he would try to send her box up to 
Woodview to-morrow. . . . That was the way to Woodview, 
right, up the lane. She could not miss it. She would find the 
lodge gate behind that clump of trees. And thinking how she 
could get her box to Woodview that evening, she looked at 
the barren strip of country lying between the downs and the 
shingle beach. The little town clamped about its deserted 
harbour seemed more than ever like falling to pieces like a 
derelict vessel, and when Esther passed over the level crossing 
she noticed that the line of little villas had not increased; 
they were as she had left them eighteen years ago, laurels, 
iron railing, antimacassars. It was about eighteen years ago, 
on a beautiful June day, that she had passed up this lane 
for the first time. At the very spot she was now passing 
she had stopped to wonder if she would be able to keep 
the place of kitchen-maid. She remembered regretting that 
she had not a new dress; she had hoped to be able to 
brighten up the best of her cotton prints with a bit of red 
ribbon. The sun was shining, and she had met William 
leaning over the paling in the avenue smoking his pipe. . . . 
Eighteen years had gone by, eighteen years of labour, suffering, 



360 ESTHER WATERS. 

disappointment. A great deal had happened, so much that 
she could not remember it all. The situations she had been 
in; her life with that dear good soul, Miss Rice, then Fred 
Parsons, then William again; her marriage, the life in the 
public-house, money lost and money won, heart-breakings, 
death, everything that could happen had happened to her. 
Now it all seemed like a dream. But her boy remained to her. 
She had brought up her boy; thank God, she had been able 
to do that. But how had she done it ? How often had she 
not found herself within sight of the workhouse? The last 
time was no later than last week. Last week it had seemed 
to her that she would have to accept the workhouse. But 
she had escaped, and now here she was back at the very point 
from which she started, going back to Woodview, going back 
to Mrs. Barfield's service. 

William's illness and his funeral had taken Esther's last 
few pounds away from her, and when she and Jack came back 
from the cemetery she found that she had broken into her 
last sovereign. She clasped him to her bosom — he was a tall 
boy of fifteen — and burst into tears. But she did not tell him 
what she was crying for. She did not say, God only knows 
how we shall find bread to eat next week; she merely said, 
wiping away her tears, " We can't afford to live here any 
longer. It's too expensive for us now that father's gone." And 
they went to live in a slum for three-and-sixpence a week. 
If she had been alone in the world she would have gone into 
situation, but she could not leave the boy, and so she had to 
look out for charing. It was hard to have to come down to 
this, particularly when she remembered that she had had a 
house and a servant of her own; but there was nothing for it 
but to look out for some charing, and get along as best she 
could until Jack was able to look after himself. But the 
various scrubbings and general cleanings that had come her 
way had been so badly paid that she soon found that she 
could not make both ends meet. She would have to leave 
her boy and go out as general servant. And as her necessities 
were pressing, she accepted a situation in a coffee-shop in the 
London Road. She would give all her wages to Jack, seven 
shillings a week, and he would have to live on that. So long 
as she had her health she did not mind. 

It was a squat brick building with four windows that looked 
down on the pavement with a short-sighted stare. On each 



ESTHER WATERS. 36 1 

window was written in letters of white enamel, "Well-aired 
beds." A board nailed to a post by the side-door announced 
that tea and coffee were always ready. On the other side of 
the sign was an upholsterer's, and the vulgar brightness of the 
Brussels carpets seemed in keeping with the slop-like appear- 
ance of the coffee-house. 

Sometimes a workman came in -the morning; a couple 
more might come in about dinner-time. Sometimes they took 
rashers and bits of steak out of their pockets. 

" Won't you cook this for me, missis ? " 

But it was not until about nine in the evening that the real 
business of the house began, and it continued till one, when 
the last straggler knocked for admittance. The house lived 
on its beds. The best rooms were sometimes let for eight 
shillings a night, and there were four beds which were let at 
fourpence a night in the cellars under the area where Esther 
stood by the great copper washing sheets, blankets, and 
counterpanes when she was not cleaning the rooms upstairs. 
There was a double-bedded room underneath the kitchen ; 
and over the landings, wherever a space could be found, the 
landlord, who was clever at carpentering work, had fitted up 
some sort of closet place that could be let as a bedroom. The 
house was as a honeycomb. The landlord slept under the 
roof, and a corner had been found for his housekeeper, a 
handsome young woman, at the end of the passage. Esther 
and the children — the landlord was a widower — slept in the 
coffee-room upon planks laid across the tops of the high backs 
of the benches where the customers mealed. Mattresses and 
bedding were laid on these planks and the sleepers lay, their 
faces hardly two feet from the ceiling. Esther slept with the 
baby, a little boy of five ; the two big boys slept at the other 
end of the room by the front door. The eldest was about 
fifteen, but he was only half-witted ; and he helped in the house 
work, and could turn down the beds and see quicker than 
any one if the occupant had stolen sheet or blanket. Esther 
always remembered how he would raise himself up in bed in 
the early morning, rub the glass, and light a candle so that he 
could be seen from below. He shook his head if every bed 
was occupied, or signed with his fingers the prices of the beds 
if they had any to let. 

The landlord was a tall thin man, with long features and 
hair turning grey. He was very quiet, and Esther was sur- 



362 ESTHER WATERS. 

prised one night at the abruptness with which he stopped a 
couple who were going upstairs. 

" Is that your wife ? " he said. 

"Yes, she's my wife, all right." 

" She don't look very old." 

" She's older than she looks." 

Then he said, half to Esther, half to his housekeeper, that it 
was hard to know what to do. If you asked them for their 
marriage certificates they'd be sure to show you something. 
The housekeeper answered that they paid well, and that was the 
principal thing. But when an attempt was made to steal the 
bed-clothes the landlord and his housekeeper were more severe. 
As Esther was about to let a most respectable woman out of 
the front door the idiot boy called down the stairs, " Stop her ! 
there's a sheet missing." 

" Oh, what in the world is all this ? I haven't got your 
sheet. Pray let me pass ; I'm in a hurry." 

" I can't let you pass until the sheet is found." 

"You'll find it upstairs under the bed; it's got mislaid. 
I'm in a hurry." 

" Call in the police," shouted the idiot boy. 

"You'd better come upstairs and help me to find the 
sheet," said Esther. 

The woman hesitated a moment, and then walked up in 
front of Esther. When they were in the bedroom she shook 
out her petticoats, and the sheet fell on the floor. 

" There now," said Esther ; " a nice botheration you'd 've 
got me into. I should 've had to pay for it" 

" Oh, I could pay for it; it was only because I'm not very 
well off at present." 

"Yes, you will pay for it if you don't take care," said 
Esther. 

It was very soon after that Esther had her mother's books 
stolen from her. They had not been doing much business, 
and she had been put to sleep in one of the bedrooms. The 
room was suddenly wanted, and she had no time to move all 
her things, and when she went to make up the room she found 
that her mother's books and a pair of jet ear-rings that 
Fred had given her had been stolen. She could do nothing ; 
the couple who had occupied the room were far away by 
this time. There was no hope of ever recovering her books 
and ear-rings, and the loss of these things caused her a great 



ESTHER WATERS. 363 

deal of unhappiness. The only little treasure she possessed 
were those ear-rings; now they were gone, she realised how 
utterly alone she was in the world. If her health were to 
break down to-morrow she would have to go to the work- 
house. What would become of her boy ? She was afraid to 
think; thinking did no good. She must not think, but must 
just work on, washing the bed-clothes until she could wash 
no longer. Wash, wash all the week long; and it was only 
by working on till one o'clock in the morning that she 
sometimes managed to get the Sabbath free from washing. 
Never, not even in the house in Chelsea, had she had such 
hard work, and she was not as strong now as she was then. 
But her courage did not give way until one Sunday Jack came 
to tell her that the people who employed him had sold their 
business. 

Then a strange weakness came over her. She thought of 
the endless week of work that awaited her in the cellar, the 
great copper on the fire, the heaps of soiled linen in the corner, 
the steam rising from the wash-tub, and she felt she had not 
sufficient strength to get through another week of such work. 
She looked at her son with despair in her eyes. She had 
whispered to him as he lay asleep under her shawl, a tiny infant, 
" There is nothing for us, my poor boy, but the workhouse," 
and the same thought rose up in her mind as she looked at 
him, a tall lad with large grey eyes and dark curling hair. 
But she did not trouble him with her despair. She merely 
said — 

" I don't know how we shall pull through, Jack. God will 
help us." 

" You're washing too hard, mother. You're wasting away. 
Do you know no one, mother, who could help us ? " 

She looked at Jack fixedly. Suddenly she thought of Mrs. 
Barfield. Mrs. Barfield might be away in the South with her 
daughter. If she were at Woodview Esther felt sure that she 
would not refuse to help her. So Jack wrote at Esther's dicta- 
tion, and before they expected an answer a letter came from 
Mrs. Barfield saying that she remembered Esther perfectly well. 
She had just returned from the South. She was all alone 
at Woodview, and wanted a servant. Esther could come and 
take the place if she liked. She enclosed five pounds, and 
hoped that the money would enable Esther to leave London 
at once. 



364 ESTHER WATERS. 

And this returning to former conditions filled Esther with 
strange trouble. She recognised the spire of the church 
between the trees, and the undulating line of downs behind 
the trees awakened painful recollections. She knew the 
w r hite gate was somewhere in this plantation, but could not 
remember its exact position ; she took the road to the left 
instead of taking the road to the right, and had to retrace 
her steps. The gate had fallen from its hinge, and she 
had some difficulty in opening it. The lodge where the 
blind gatekeeper used to play the flute was closed. The park 
paling had not been kept in repair, and wandering sheep and 
cattle had worn away the great holly hedge; and Esther 
noticed that in falling an elm had broken down the garden 
wall. The trunk lay in the huge gap. 

When she arrived at the iron gate under the bunched ever- 
greens her steps paused. For this was where she had met 
William for the first time. He had taken her through the 
stables and pointed out to her Silver Braid's box. She re- 
membered horses going to the downs, horses coming from 
the downs — stabling and the sounds of hoofs everywhere. But 
now silence. She could see that many a roof had fallen, and 
that ruins of outhouses filled the yard. She remembered the 
kitchen windows, bright in the setting sun, and the white-capped 
servants moving about the great white table. But now the shut- 
ters were up, nowhere a light; the knocker had disappeared from 
the door, and she asked herself how she was to get in. She even 
felt afraid. . - . Supposing she should not find Mrs. Barfield. 
She made her way through the shrubbery, tripping over fallen 
branches and trunks of trees ; rooks rose out of the ever- 
greens with a great clatter, her heart stood still, and she hardly 
dared to tear herself through the mass of underwood. At 
last she gained the lawn, and, still very frightened, sought for 
the bell. The socket plate hung loose on the wire, and only 
a faint tingle came through the solitude of the empty house. 

At last footsteps and a light ; the chained door was opened 
a little, and a voice asked who it was. Esther explained ; the 
door was opened, and she stood face to face with her old 
mistress. Mrs. Barfield stood, holding the candle high, so that 
she could see Esther. Esther knew her at once. She had not 
changed very much. She kept her beautiful white teeth and 
her girlish smile ; the pointed, vixen-like face had not altered 
in outline, but the reddish hair was so thin that it had to be 






ESTHER WATERS. 365 

parted on the side and drawn over the skull ; her figure was 
delicate and sprightly as ever. Esther noticed all this, and 
Mrs. Barfield noticed that Esther had grown stouter. Her 
face was still pleasant to see, for it kept that look of blunt, 
honest nature which had always been its greatest charm. She 
was now the thick-set, working woman of forty, and she stood 
holding the hem of her jacket in her rough hands. 

"We'd better put the chain up, for I'm alone in the 
house." 

" Aren't you afraid, ma'am ? " 

"A little, but there's nothing to steal. I asked the police- 
man to keep a look-out. Come into the library." 

There was the round table, the little green sofa, the piano, 
the parrot's cage, and the yellow-painted presses ; and it seemed 
only a little while since she had been summoned to this 
room, since she had stood facing her mistress, her confession 
on her lips. It seemed like yesterday, and yet seventeen 
years and more had gone by. And all these years were 
now a sort of blur in her mind — a dream, the connecting 
links of which were gone, and she stood face to face with 
her old mistress in the old room. 

"You've had a cold journey, Esther; you'd like some tea." 

" Oh, don't trouble, ma'am." 

" It's no trouble ; I should like some myself. The fire's out 
in the kitchen. We can boil the kettle here." 

They went through the baize door into the long passage. 
Mrs. Barfield told Esther where was the pantry, the kitchen, 
and the larder. Esther answered that she remembered quite 
well, and it seemed to her not a little strange that she should 
know these things. Mrs. Barfield said — 

" So you haven't forgotten Woodview, Esther ? " 

"No, ma'am, it seems like yesterday. . . . But I'm afraid 
the damp has got into the kitchen, ma'am, the range is that 
neglected " 

" Ah, Woodview isn't what it was." 

They sat talking for hours. Mrs. Barfield told how she had 
buried her husband in the old village church. She had taken 
her daughter to Egypt ; she had dwindled there till there was 
little more than a skeleton to lay in the grave. 

" Yes, ma'am, I know how it takes them, inch by inch. My 
husband died of consumption." 

The evening was long, one thing led to another, and Esther 



366 ESTHER WATERS. 

gradually told Mrs. Barfield the story of her life from the day 
they bade each other good-bye in the room they were now 
sitting in. 

" It is quite a romance, Esther." 

" It was a hard fight, and it isn't over yet, ma'am. It won't 
be over until I see him settled in some regular work. I hope 
I shall live to see him settled." 

They sat over the fire a long time without speaking. Mrs, 
Barfield said — 

" It must be getting on for bedtime." 

" I suppose it must, ma'am." 

She asked if she should sleep in the room she had once 
shared with Margaret Gale. Mrs. Barfield answered with a 
sigh that as all the bedrooms were empty Esther had better 
sleep in the room next to hers. 



ESTHER WATERS. 367 



XLVII. 

Esther seemed to have quite naturally accepted Woodview 
as a final stage. Any further change in her life she did not 
seem to regard as possible or desirable. One of these days 
her boy would get settled; he would come down now and 
again to see her. She did not want any more than that. No, 
she did not find the place lonely. A young girl might, but she 
was no longer a young girl ; she had her work to do, and when 
it was done she was glad to sit down to rest. 

Dressed in long cloaks, the women went for walks together; 
sometimes they went up the hill, sometimes into Southwick 
to make some little purchases. On Sundays they walked to 
Beeding to attend meeting. And they came home along the 
winter roads, the peace and happiness of prayer upon their 
faces, holding their skirts out of the mud, unashamed of their 
common boots. They made no acquaintances, seeming to 
find in each other all necessary companionship. Their heads 
bent a little forward they trudged home, talking of what they 
were in the habit of talking of. Another tree had unfortunately 
been blown down. Jack was now earning good money — 
ten shillings a week. Esther hoped it would last. Or else 
Esther told her mistress that she had heard that one of 
Mr. Arthur's horses had won a race. He lived in the North 
of England, where he had a small training stable, and his 
mother never heard of him except through the sporting papers. 
" He hasn't been here for four years," Mrs. Barfield said; "he 
hates the place ; he wouldn't care if I were to burn it down 
to-morrow. . . . However, I do the best I can, hoping that 
one day he'll marry and come and live here." 

Mr. Arthur — that was how Mrs. Barfield and Esther spoke 
of him — did not draw any income from the estate. The rents 
only sufficed to pay the charges and the widow's jointure. All 



368 ESTHER WATERS. 

the land was let ; the house he had tried to let, but it had been 
found impossible to find a tenant, unless Mr. Arthur would 
expend some considerable sum in putting the house and 
grounds into a state of proper repair. This he did not care to 
do ; he said that he found race-horses a more profitable specu- 
lation. Besides, even the park had been let on lease; nothing 
remained to him but the house and lawn and garden; he 
could no longer gallop a horse on the hill without somebody's 
leave, so he didn't care what became of the place. His 
mother might go on living there, keeping things together as 
she called it; he did not mind what she did as long as she 
didn't bother him. So did he express himself regarding 
Woodview on the rare occasion of his visits, and when he 
troubled to answer his mother's letters. The old woman, 
whose thoughts were limited to the estate, was pained by 
his indifference; she gradually ceased to consult him, and 
when Beeding was too far for her to walk she had the furniture 
removed from the drawing-room and a long deal table placed 
there instead. She had not asked herself if Arthur would 
object to her inviting the few brethren of the neighbourhood 
to her house for meeting, or publishing the meetings by 
notices posted on the lodge gate. 

One day Mrs. Barfield and Esther were walking in the 
avenue, when, to their surprise, they saw Mr. Arthur open the 
white gate and come through. The mother hastened forward 
to meet her son, but paused, dismayed by the anger that 
looked out of his eyes. She remembered the notices, and she 
was sorry that he was annoyed. She didn't think that he 
would mind, and so she hastened by his side, pleading her 
reasons. But to her great sorrow Arthur did not seem to 
be able to overcome his annoyance. He refused to listen, 
and continued his reproaches, saying the things that he knew 
would most pain her. 

He did not care whether the trees stood or fell, whether the 
cement remained upon the walls or dropped from them; he 
didn't draw a penny of income from the place, and did not 
care a damn what became of it. He allowed her to live there, 
she got her jointure out of the property, and he didn't want to 
interfere with her, but what he could not stand was the snuffy 
little folk from the town coming round his house. The 
Barfields at least were county, and he wished Woodview to 
remain county as long as the walls held together. He wasn't 



ESTHER WATERS. 369 

a bit ashamed of all this ruin. You could receive the Prince 
of Wales in a ruin, but he wouldn't care to ask him into a 
dissenting chapel. Mrs. Barfield answered that she did not 
see how the mere assembling of a few friends in prayer could 
disgrace a house. . . . She did not know that he objected to 
her asking them. She would not ask them any more. The 
only thing was that there was no place nearer Beeding where 
they could meet, and she could no longer walk so far. She 
would have to give up meeting. 

" It seems to me a strange taste to want to kneel down with 
a lot of little shopkeepers. ... Is this where you kneel ? " he 
said, pointing to the long deal table. " The place is a regular 
little Bethel." 

" Our Lord said that when a number should gather together 
for prayer that He would be among them. Those are true 
words, and as we get old we feel more and more the want 
of this communion of spirit. It is only then that we feel 
that we're really with God. . . . The folk that you despise 
are equal in His sight. And living here alone, what should 
I be without prayer? and Esther, after her life of trouble 
and strife, what would she be without prayer ? ... It is our 
consolation." 

11 1 think one should choose one's company for prayer as 
for everything else. Besides, what do you get out of it? 
Miracles don't happen nowadays." 

" You're very young, Arthur, and you cannot feel the want 
of prayer as we do — two old women living in this lonely house. 
As age and solitude overtake us, the realities of life float away 
and we become more and more sensible to the mystery which 
surrounds us. And our Lord Jesus Christ gave us love and 
prayer so that we might see a little further." 

An expression of great beauty came upon her face, that 
unconscious resignation which, like the twilight, hallows and 
transforms. In such moments the humblest hearts are at one 
with nature, and speak out of the eternal wisdom of things. 
So even this common racing man was touched, and he 
said — 

"I'm sorry if I said anything to hurt your religious 
feelings." 

Mrs. Barfield did not answer. 

" Do you not accept my apologies, mother ? " 

" My dear boy, what do I care for your apologies ; what are 

24 



370 ESTHER WATERS. 

they to me ? All I think of now is your conversion to Christ. 
Nothing else matters. ... I shall always pray for that." 

11 You may have whom you like up here ; I don't mind 
if it makes you happy. I'm ashamed of myself. Don't let's 
say any more about it. I'm only down for the day. . . . I'm 
going home to-morrow." 

" Home, Arthur ! this is your home. I can't bear to hear 
you speak of any other place as your home." 

"Well, mother, then I shall say that I'm going back to 
business to-morrow." 

Mrs. Barfield sighed. 



ESTHER WATERS. 3? I 



XLVIII, 

Days, weeks, and months passed away; and the two women 
came to live more and more like friends and less like mistress 
and maid. Not that Esther ever failed to use the respectful 
" ma'am " when she addressed her mistress, nor did they ever 
sit down to a meal at the same table. But these slight social 
distinctions, which habit naturally preserved, and which it 
would have been disagreeable to both to forego, were no check 
on the intimacy of their companionship. In the evening they 
sat in the library sewing, or Mrs. Barfield read aloud, or they 
talked of their sons. On Sundays they had their meetings. 
The folk came from quite a distance, and sometimes as many 
as five-and-twenty knelt round the deal table in the drawing- 
room, and Esther felt that these days were the happiest of her 
life. ' She was content in the peaceful present, and she knew 
that Mrs. Barfield would not leave her unprovided for. But 
she was not yet free from anxiety. Jack did not seem to be 
able to obtain regular employment in London, and her 
wages were so small that she could not help him much. 
So the sight of his handwriting made her tremble, and she 
sometimes did not show the letter to Mrs. Barfield for some 
hours after. 

One Sunday morning, after meeting, as the two women were 
going for their walk up the hill, Esther said — 

" I've a letter from my boy, ma'am. I hope it is to tell me 
that he's got back to work." 

" I'm afraid I shan't be able to read it, Esther. I haven't 
my glasses with me." 

" It don't matter, ma'am — it'll keep." 

" Give it to me — his writing is large and legible. I think I 
can read it. ' My dear mother, the place I told you of in my 
last letter was given away, so T must go on in the toy-shop till 



37 2 ESTHER WATERS. 

something better turns up. I only get six shillings a week 
and my tea, and I can't quite manage on that.' Then some- 
thing—something, — 'pay three and sixpence a week' — some- 
things- ' bed ' — something — something." 

" I know, ma'am ; he shares a bed with the eldest boy." 

M Yes, that's it; and he wants to know if you can help him. 
' I don't like to trouble you, mother ; but it is hard for a boy 
to get his living in London.' " 

" But I've sent him all my money. I shan't have any till 
next quarter." 

" I'll lend you some, Esther. We can't leave the boy to 
starve. He can't live on two and sixpence a week." 

"You're very good, ma'am; but I don't like to take your 
money. We shan't be able to get the garden cleared this 
winter." 

"We shall manage somehow, Esther. The garden must 
wait. The first thing to do is to see that your boy doesn't 
want for food." 

The women resumed their walk up the hill. W T hen they 
reached the top Mrs. Barfield said — 

" I haven't heard from Mr. Arthur for months. I envy you, 
Esther, those letters asking for a little money. What's the use 
of money to us except to give it to our children. Helping 
others, that is the only happiness." 

At the end of the coombe, under the shaws, stood the old 
red-tiled farmhouse in which Mrs. Barfield had been born. 
Beyond it, downlands rolled on and on reaching half-way up 
the northern sky. Mrs. Barfield was thinking of the days 
when her husband used to jump off his cob and walk beside 
her through those gorse patches on his way to the farmhouse. 
She had come from the farmhouse beneath the shaws to go 
to live in an Italian house sheltered by a fringe of trees. 
That was her adventure. She turned from the view of the downs 
to the view of the sea. The plantations of Woodview touched 
the horizon, then the line dipped, and between the top branches 
of a row of elms appeared the roofs of the town. Over a long 
spider-legged bridge a train wriggled like a snake, the bleak 
river flowed into the harbour, and the shingle banks saved the 
low land from inundation. Then the train passed behind the 
square, dogmatic tower of the village church. Her husband 
lay beneath the chancel ; her father, mother, all her relations, 
lay in the churchyard. She would go there in a few years. 



ESTHER WATER& 373 

. . . Her daughter lay far away, far away in Egypt. Upon 
this downland all her life had been passed, all her life 
except the few months she had spent by her daughter's 
bedside in Egypt. She had come from that coombe, from 
that farmhouse beneath the shaws, and had only crossed the 
down. 

And this barren landscape meant as much to Esther as 
to her mistress. It was on these downs that she had walked 
with William. He had been born and bred on these downs; 
now he lay far away in Brompton cemetery ; she had come 
back ! and in her simple way she too wondered at the mystery 
of destiny. 

As they descended the hill Mrs. Barfield asked Esther if she 
ever heard of Fred Parsons. 

" No, ma'am, I don't know what's become of him." 

" And if you were to meet him again, would you care to 
marry him ? " 

" To marry and begin life over again ! All the worry and 
bother over again! Why should I marry? — all I live for now is 
to see my boy settled in life." 

The women walked on in silence, passing by long ruins of 
stables, coach-houses, granaries, rick-yards, all in ruin and 
decay. The women paused and went towards the garden ; 
and removing some pieces of the broken gate they entered 
a miniature wilderness. The espalier apple trees had dis- 
appeared beneath climbing weeds, and long briars had shot 
out from the bushes leaving few traces of the former walks — 
a damp, dismal place that the birds seemed to have abandoned. 
Of the greenhouse only some broken glass and a black broken 
chimney remained. A great elm had carried away a large 
portion of the southern wall, and under the dripping trees an 
aged peacock screamed for his lost mate. 

" I don't suppose that Jack will be able to find any more 
paying employment this winter. We must send him six 
shillings a week; that, with what he is earning, will make 
twelve; he'll be able to live nicely on that." 

" I should think he would indeed. But then, what about 
the wages of them who was to have cleared the gardens for 
us?" 

" We shan't be able to get the whole garden cleared, but 
Jim will be able to get a piece ready for us to sow some spring 
vegetables, not a krge piece, but enough for us. The first 



374 ESTHER WATERS. 

thing to do will be to cut down those apple trees. . . . I'm 
afraid we shall have to cut down that walnut. Nothing could 
grow underneath it. . . . Did any one ever see such a mass of 
weed and briar ? Yet it is only about ten years since we left 
Woodview, and the garden was let run to waste. Nature does 
not take long — a few years, a very few years." 



ESTHER WATERS. 375 



XLIX. 

All the winter the north wind was bitter on the hills; many 
trees fell in the park, and at the end of February VVoodview 
seemed barer and more desolate than ever; broken branches 
littered the roadway, and the tall trunks showed their wounds. 
The women sat over their fire in the evening listening to the 
blast, cogitating the work that awaited them as soon as the 
weather showed signs of breaking. 

Mrs. Barfield had laid by a few pounds during the winter; 
and the day that Jim cleared out the first piece of espalier 
trees she spent entirely in the garden, hardly able to take her 
eyes off him. But the pleasure of the day was in a measure 
spoilt for her by the knowledge that on that day her son was 
riding in the great steeple-chase. She was full of fear for his 
safety; she did not sleep that night, and hurried down at an 
early hour to the garden to ask Jim for the newspaper which 
she had told him to bring her. He took some time to 
extract the paper from his torn pocket. 

" He isn't in the first three," said Mrs. Barfield. " I always 
know that he's safe if he's in the first three. We must turn to 
the account of the race to see if there were any accidents." 

She turned over the paper. 

"Thank God, he's safe," she said; " his horse ran fourth." 

"You worry yourself without cause, ma'am. A good rider 
like him don't meet with accidents." 

" The best riders are often killed, Esther. I never have an 
easy moment when I hear he's going to ride in these races. 
Supposing one day I were to read that he was carried back 
on a shutter." 

" We mustn't let our thoughts run on such things, ma'am. If 
a war was to break out to-morrow, what should I do ? And 
after all my trouble rearing him, after having worked for him 
all these years. But I don't let my thoughts dwell on such 



37<5 ESTHER WATERS. 

things; we must keep on working, doing the best we can foi 
them. There are all sorts of chances, and we can only pray 
that God may spare them." 

" Yes, Esther, that's all we can do. Work on, work on to 
the end. . . . Your boy is coming to see you to-day." 
"Yes, ma'am, he'll be here by twelve o'clock." 
" You're luckier than I am. I wonder if I shall ever see 
my boy again." 

" Yes, ma'am, of course you will. He'll come back to you 
right enough one of these days. There's a good time coming ; 
that's what I always says. . . . And now I've got work to 
do in the house. Are you going to stop here, or are you 
coming in with me ? " 

11 1 think I'll remain here. I like to watch the work." 
" It'll do you no good standing about in the wet clay." 
Mrs. Barfield smiled and nodded, and Esther paused at the 
broken gate to watch her mistress, who stood superintending 
the clearing away of ten years' growth of weeds, as much 
interested in the prospect of a few peas and cabbages 
as in former days she had been in the culture of expensive 
flowers. She stood on what remained of a gravel walk, the 
heavy clay clinging to her boots, watching Jim piling weeds 
upon his barrow. Would he be able to finish the plot of ground 
by the end of the week ? What should they do with that 
great walnut tree ? Nothing would grow underneath it. Jim 
was afraid that he would not be able to cut it down and 
remove it without help. Mrs. Barfield suggested sawing away 
some of the branches, but Jim was not sure that the expedient 
would prove of much avail. In his opinion the tree took all 
the goodness out of the soil, and that while it stood they could 
not expect a very great show of vegetables. Mrs. Barfield 
asked if the sale of the tree trunk would indemnify her for the 
cost of cutting it down. Jim paused in his work, and, leaning 
on his spade, considered if there was any one in the town who, 
for the sake of the timber, would cut the tree down and take 
it away for nothing. There ought to be some such person 
in town; if it came to that, Mrs. Barfield ought to receive 
something for the tree. Walnut was a valuable wood, was 
extensively used by cabinetmakers, and so on, until Mrs. 
Barfield begged of him to get on with his digging. 

At twelve o'clock Esther and Mrs. Barfield walked out 
on the lawn. A loud wind came up from the sea, and it 






ESTHER WATERS. 377 

shook the evergreens as if it was angry with them. A rook 
carried a stick to the tops of the tall trees, and the women 
drew their cloaks about them. The train passed across the 
vista, and the women wondered how long it would take Jack 
to walk from the station. Then another rook stooped to 
the edge of the plantation, gathered a twig, and carried it 
away. The wind was rough ; it caught the evergreens under- 
neath and blew them out like umbrellas ; the grass had not 
yet began to grow, and the grey sea harmonised with the grey- 
green land. The women waited on the windy lawn, their 
skirts blown against their legs, keeping their hats on with 
difficulty. It was too cold for standing still. They turned 
and walked a few steps towards the house, and then looked 
round. 

A tall soldier came through the gate. He wore a long red 
cloak, and a small cap jauntily set on the side of his close-clipped 
head. Esther uttered a little exclamation and ran to meet him. 
He took his mother in his arms, kissed her, and they walked 
towards Mrs. Barfield together. All was forgotten in the 
happiness of the moment — the long fight for his life, and the 
possibility that any moment might declare him to be mere 
food for powder and shot. She was only conscious that she 
had accomplished her woman's work — she had brought him 
up to man's estate ; and that was her sufficient reward. What 
a fine fellow he was ! She did not know he was so handsome, 
and blushing with pleasure and pride she glanced shyly at 
him out of the corners of her eyes as she introduced him to 
her mistress. 

" This is my son, ma'am." 

Mrs. Barfield held out her hand to the young soldier. 

" I have heard a great deal about you from your mother." 

"And I of you, ma'am. You've been very kind to my 
mother. I don't know how to thank you." . . . 

And in silence they walked towards the house. 



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add, a more amusing work on the art of to-day, we have never read 
than this volume." — Glasgow Herald. 

" Impressionism, to use that word, in the absence of any fitter 
one, — the impressionism which makes his own writing on art in this 
volume so effective, is, in short, the secret both of his likes and 
dislikes, his hatred of what he thinks conventional and mechanic, 
together with his very alert and careful evaluation of what comes home 
to him as straightforward, whether in Reynolds, or Rubens, or Ruysdael, 
in Japan, in Paris, or in modern England." — Mr. Pater in The 
Chronicle. 

" As an art critic Mr. George Moore certainly has some signal 
advantages. He is never dull, he is frankly personal, he is untroubled 
by tradition." — Westminster Gazette, 

" Mr. Moore, in spite of the impediments that he puts in the way of 
his own effectiveness, is one of the most competent writers on painting 
that we have." — Manchester Guardian. 

" His [Mr. Moore's] book is one that cannot fail to be much talked 
about ; and everyone who is interested in modern painting will do well 
to make acquaintance with its views." — Scottish Leader. 

" As everybody knows by this time, Mr. Moore is a person of strong 
opinions and strong dislikes, and has the gift of expressing both in 
pungent language." — The Times. 

"Of his [Mr. Moore's] sincerity, of his courage, and of his candour 
there can be no doubt. . . . One of the most interesting writers on art 
that we have. " — Pall Mall Gazette. 



London: Walter Scott, Ltd., 24 Warwick Lane. 



WALTER SCOTT'S 

NEW BOOKS. 

. THE SCOTT LIBRARY. 

Cloth, Uncut Edges, Gilt Top. Price is. 6d. per Volume. 



VOLUMES ALREADY ISSUED— 

i MALORY'S ROMANCE OF KING ARTHUR AND THE 
Quest of the Holy Grail. Edited by Ernest Rhys. 

2 THOREAU'S WALDEN. WITH INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

by Will H. Dircks. 

3 THOREAU'S "WEEK." WITH PREFATORY NOTE BY 

Will H. Dircks. 

4 THOREAU'S ESSAYS. EDITED, WITH AN INTRO- 

duction, by Will H. Dircks. 

5 CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGLISH OPIUM-EATER, ETC. 

By Thomas De Quincey. With Introductory Note by William Sharp. 

6 LANDOR'S IMAGINARY CONVERSATIONS. SELECTED, 

with Introduction, by Havelock Ellis. 

7 PLUTARCH'S LIVES (LANGHORNE). WITH INTRO- 

ductory Note by B. J. Snell, M.A. 

8 BROWNE'S RELIGIO MEDICI, ETC. WITH INTRO- 

duction by J. Addington Symonds. 

9 SHELLEY'S ESSAYS AND LETTERS. EDITED, WITH 

Introductory Note, by Ernest Rhys. 

io SWIFT'S PROSE WRITINGS. CHOSEN AND ARRANGED, 
with Introduction, by Walter Lewin. 

ii MY STUDY WINDOWS. BY TAMES RUSSELL LOWELL. 
With Introduction by R. Garnett, LL.D. 

12 LOWELL'S ESSAYS ON THE ENGLISH POETS. WITH 

a new Introduction by Mr. Lowell. 

13 THE BIGLOW PAPERS. BY JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL. 

With a Prefatory Note by Ernest Rhys. 



London: Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick Lane. 



THE SCOTT LIBRARY-continued. 

14 GREAT ENGLISH PAINTERS. SELECTED FROM 

Cunningham's Lives. Edited by William Sharp. 

15 BYRON'S LETTERS AND JOURNALS. SELECTED, 

with Introduction, by Mathilde Blind. 

16 LEIGH HUNT'S ESSAYS. WITH INTRODUCTION AND 

Notes by Arthur Symons. 

17 LONGFELLOW'S "HYPERION," "KAVANAH," AND 

"The Trouveres." With Introduction by W. Tirebuck. 

18 GREAT MUSICAL COMPOSERS. BY G. F. FERRIS. 

Edited, with Introduction, by Mrs. William Sharp. 

19 THE MEDITATIONS OF MARCUS AURELIUS. EDITED 

by Alice Zimmern. 

20 THE TEACHING OF EPICTETUS. TRANSLATED FROM 

the Greek, with Introduction and Notes, by T. W. Rolleston. 

21 SELECTIONS FROM SENECA. WITH INTRODUCTION 

by Walter Clode. 

22 SPECIMEN DAYS IN AMERTCA. BY WALT WHITMAN. 

Revised by the Author, with fresh Preface. 

23 DEMOCRATIC VISTAS, AND OTHER PAPERS. BY 

Walt Whitman. (Published by arrangement with the Author.) 

24 WHITE'S NATURAL HISTORY OF SELBORNE. WITH 

a Preface by Richard Jefferies. 

25 DEFOE'S CAPTAIN SINGLETON. EDITED, WITH 

Introduction, by II. Halliday Sparling. 

26 MAZZINI'S ESSAYS : LITERARY, POLITICAL, AND 

Religious. With Introduction by William Clarke. 

27 PROSE WRITINGS OF HEINE. WITH INTRODUCTION 

by Havelock Ellis. 

28 REYNOLDS'S DISCOURSES. WITH INTRODUCTION 

by Helen Zimmern. 

29 PAPERS OF STEELE AND ADDISON. EDITED BY 

Walter Lewin. 

30 BURNS'S LETTERS. SELECTED AND ARRANGED, 

with Introduction, by J. Logie Robertson, M.A. 



London: Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick Lane. 



THE SCOTT LIBRARY— continued. 

31 VOLSUNGA SAGA. William Morris. WITH INTRO- 

duction by H. H. Sparling. 

32 SARTOR RESARTUS. BY THOMAS CARLYLE. WITH 

Introduction by Ernest Rhys. 

33 SELECT WRITINGS OF EMERSON. WITH INTRO- 

duction by Percival Chubb. 

34 AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF LORD HERBERT. EDITED, 

with an Introduction, by Will II. Dircks. 

35 ENGLISH PROSE, FROM MAUNDEVILLE TO 

Thackeray. Chosen and Edited by Arthur Galton. 

36 THE PILLARS OF SOCIETY, AND OTHER PLAYS. BY 

Henrik Ibsen. Edited, with an Introduction, by Havelock Ellis. 

37 IRISH FAIRY AND FOLK TALES. EDITED AND 

Selected by W. B. Yeats. 

38 ESSAYS OF DR. JOHNSON, WITH BIOGRAPHICAL 

Introduction and Notes by Stuart J. Reid. 

39 ESSAYS OF WILLIAM HAZLITT. SELECTED AND 

Edited, with Introduction and Notes, by Frank Carr. 

40 LANDOR'S PENTAMERON, AND OTHER IMAGINARY 

Conversations. Edited, with a Preface, by H. Ellis. 

41 POE'S TALES AND ESSAYS. EDITED, WITH INTRO- 

duction, by Ernest Rhys. 

42 VICAR OF WAKEFIELD. BY OLIVER GOLDSMITH. 

Edited, with Preface, by Ernest Rhys. 

43 POLITICAL ORATIONS, FROM WENTWORTH TO 

Macaulay. Edited, with Introduction, by William Clarke. 

44 THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST-TABLE. BY 

Oliver Wendell Holmes. 

45 THE POET AT THE BREAKFAST-TABLE. BY OLIVER 

Wendell Holmes. 

46 THE PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST- TABLE. BY 

Oliver Wendell Holmes. 

47 LORD CHESTERFIELD'S LETTERS TO HIS SON. 

Selected, with Introduction, by Charles Sayle. 



London: Walter Scott, Limited, 2i Warwick Lane. 



THE SCOTT LIBRARY -continued. 

48 STORIES FROM CARLETON. SELECTED, WITH INTRO- 

duction, by W. Yeats. 

49 JANE EYRE. BY CHARLOTTE BRONTE. EDITED BY 

Clement K. Shorter. 

50 ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND. EDITED BY LOTHROP 

Withington, with a Preface by Dr. Fumivall. 

51 THE PROSE WRITINGS OF THOMAS DAVIS. EDITED 

by T. W. Rolleston. 

52 SPENCE'S ANECDOTES. A SELECTION. EDITED, 

with an Introduction and Notes, by John Underbill. 

53 MORE'S UTOPIA, AND LIFE OF EDWARD V. EDITED, 

with an Introduction, by Maurice Adams. 

54 SADI'S GULISTAN, OR FLOWER GARDEN. TRANS- 

lated, with an Essay, by James Ross. 

55 ENGLISH FAIRY AND FOLK TALES. EDITED BY 

E. Sidney Hartland. 

56 NORTHERN STUDIES. BY EDMUND GOSSE. WITH 

a Note by Ernest Rhys. 

57 EARLY REVIEWS OF GREAT WRITERS. EDITED BY 

E. Stevenson. 

58 ARISTOTLE'S ETHICS. WITH GEORGE HENRY 

Lewes's Essay on Aristotle prefixed. 

59 LANDOR'S PERICLES AND ASPASIA. EDITED, WITH 

an Introduction, by Havelock Ellis. 

60 ANNALS OF TACITUS. THOMAS GORDON'S TRANS- 

lation. Edited, with an Introduction, by Arthur Gal ton. 

61 ESSAYS OF ELIA. BY CHARLES LAMB. EDITED, 

with an Introduction, by Ernest Rhys. 

62 BALZAC'S SHORTER STORIES. TRANSLATED BY 

William Wilson and the Count Steubock. 

63 COMEDIES OF DE MUSSET. EDITED, WITH AN 

Introductory Note, by S. L. Cwynn. 

64 CORAL REEFS. BY CHARLES DARWIN. EDITED, 

with an Introduction, by Dr. J. W. Williams. 



Loudon : Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick. Lane. 



THE SCOTT LIBRARY-continued. 

65 SHERIDAN'S PLAYS. EDITED, WITH AN INTRO- 

duction, by Rudolf Dircks. 

66 OUR VILLAGE. BY MISS MITFORD. EDITED, WITH 

an Introduction, by Ernest Rhys. 

67 MASTER HUMPHREY'S CLOCK, AND OTHER STORIES. 

By Charles Dickens. With Introduction by Frank T. Marzials. 

68 TALES FROM WONDERLAND. BY RUDOLPH 

Baumbach. Translated by Helen B. Dole. 

69 ESSAYS AND PAPERS BY DOUGLAS JERROLD. EDITED 

by Walter Jerrold. 

70 VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN. BY 

Mary Wollstonecraft. Introduction by Mrs. E. Robins Pennell. 

71 "THE ATHENIAN ORACLE." A SELECTION. EDITED 

by John Underhill, with Prefatory Note by Walter Besant. 

72 ESSAYS OF SAINT- BEUVE. TRANSLATED AND 

Edited, with an Introduction, by Elizabeth Lee. 

73 SELECTIONS FROM PLATO. FROM THE TRANS- 

lation of Sydenham and Taylor. Edited by T. W. Rolleston. 

74 HEINE'S ITALIAN TRAVEL SKETCHES, ETC. TRANS* 

lated by Elizabeth A. Sharp. With an Introduction from the French of 
Theophile Gautier. 

75 SCHILLER'S MAID OF ORLEANS. TRANSLATED, 

with an Introduction, by Major-General Patrick Maxwell. 

76 SELECTIONS FROM SYDNEY SMITH. EDITED, WITH 

an Introduction, by Ernest Rhys. 

77 THE NEW SPIRIT. BY HAVELOCK ELLIS. 

78 THE BOOK OF MARVELLOUS ADVENTURES. FROM 

the "Morte d'Arthur." Edited by Ernest Rhys. [This, together with 
No. 1, forms the complete "Morte d'Arthur."] 

79 ESSAYS AND APHORISMS. BY SIR ARTHUR HELPS. 

With an Introduction by E. A. Helps. 

80 ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE. SELECTED, WITH A 

Prefatory Note, by Percival Chubb. 

81 THE LUCK OF BARRY LYNDON. BY W. M. 

Thackeray. Edited by F. T. Marzials. 



London : Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick Lane. 



THE SCOTT LIBRARY— continued. 

82 SCHILLER'S WILLIAM TELL. TRANSLATED, WITH 

an Introduction, by Major-General Patrick Maxwell. 

83 CARLYLE'S ESSAYS ON GERMAN LITERATURE. 

With an Introduction by Ernes c Rhys. 

84 PLAYS AND DRAMATIC ESSAYS OF CHARLES LAMB. 

Edited, with an Introduction, by Rudolf Dircks. 

85 THE PROSE OF WORDSWORTH. SELECTED AND 

Edited, with an Introduction, by Professor William Knight. 

86 ESSAYS, DIALOGUES, AND THOUGHTS OF COUNT 

Oiacomo Leopardi. Translatec" 
Major-General Patrick Maxwell. 



Giacomo Leopardi. Translated, with an Introduction and Notes, by 
ilT 



87 THE INSPECTOR-GENERAL A RUSSIAN COMEDY. 

By Nikolai V. Gogol. Translated from the original, with an Introduction, 
and Notes, by Arthur A. Sykes. 

88 ESSAYS AND APOTHEGMS OF FRANCIS, LORD BACON: 

Edited, with an Introduction, by John Buchan. 

89 PROSE OF MILTON : SELECTED AND EDITED, WITH* 

an Introduction, by Richard Garnett, LL.D. 



London : Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick Lane. 



GREAT WRITERS. 



A NEW SERIES OF CRITICAL BIOGRAPHIES. 
Edited by Eric Robertson and Frank T. Marzials. 
A Complete Bibliography to each Volume, by J. P. Anderson, 
British Museum, London. 



Cloth, Uncut Edges, Gilt Top. Price 1/6. 



Volumes already Issued — 

LIFE OF LONGFELLOW. By Prof. Eric S. Robertson. 
" A most readable little work."— Liverpool Mercury. 

LIFE OF COLERIDGE. By Hall Caine. 

"Brief and vigorous, written throughout with spirit and great literary 
skill. "Scotsman. 

LIFE OF DICKENS. By Frank T. Marzials. 

"Notwithstanding the mass of matter that has been printed relating 
to Dickens and his works ... we should, until we came across this volume, 
have been at a loss to recommend any popular life of England's most popular 
novelist as being really satisfactory. The difficulty is removed by Mr. 
Marzials's little book."— Athenaeum. 

' LIFE OF DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. By J. Knight. 

"Mr. Knight's picture of the great poet and painter is the fullest and 
best yet presented to the public."— The Graphic. 

LIFE OF SAMUEL JOHNSON. By Colonel F. Grant. 

" Colonel Grant has performed his task with diligence, sound judgment, 
good taste, and accuracy."— Illustrated London Mews. 

LIFE OF DARWIN. By G. T. Bettant. 

" Mr. G. T. Bettany's Life of Darwin is a sound and conscientious work." 
—Saturday Review. 

LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE. By A. Birrell. 

"Those who know much of Charlotte Bronte will learn more, and those 
who know nothing about her will find all that is best worth learning in Mr. 
Birrell's pleasant book."— fife. James' Gazette. 

LIFE OF THOMAS CARLYLE. By R. Garnett, LL.D. 

"This is an admirable book. Nothing could be more felicitous and 
fairer than the way in which he takes us through Carlyle's life and 
works."— Pall Mall Gazette. 



London : Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick Lane. 



GREAT WRITERS— continued. 

LIFE OF ADAM SMITH. By R. B. Haldane, M.P. 

"Written with a perspicuity seldom exemplified when dealing with 
economic science."— Scotsman. 

LIFE OF KEATS. By W. M. Rossettt. 

"Valuable for the ample information which it contains."— Cambridge 
Independent. 

LIFE OF SHELLEY. By William Sharp. 

*' The criticisms . . . entitle this capital monograph to be ranked with 
the best biographies of Shelley." — Westminster Review. 

LIFE OF SMOLLETT. By David Hannay. 

M A capable record of a writer who still remains one of the great masters 
of the English novel." — Saturday Review. 

LIFE OF GOLDSMITH. By Austin Dobson. 

"The story of his literary and social life in London, with all its humorous 
and pathetic vicissitudes, is here retold, as none could tell it better."— Daily 
JSeu'8. 

LIFE OF SCOTT. By Professor Yonge. 

"This is a most enjoyable book." — Aberdeen Free Press. 

LIFE OF BURNS. By Professor Blackie. 

" The editor certainly made a hit when he persuaded Blackie to write 
about Burns." — Pall Mall Gazette. 

LIFE OF VICTOR HUGO. By Frank T. Marzials. 

" Mr. Marzials' s volume presents to us, in a more handy form than any 
English or even French handbook gives, the summary of what is known 
about the life of the great poet." — Saturday Review. 

LIFE OF EMERSON. By Richard Garnett, LL.D. 

" No record of Emerson's life could be more desirable." — Saturday Review. 

LIFE OF GOETHE. By James Sime. 

"Mr. James Sime's competence as a biographer of Goethe is beyond 
question." — Manchester Guardian. 

LIFE OF CONGREVE. By Edmund Gosse. 

**Mr. Gosse has written an admirable biography."— A cademy. 

LIFE OF BUNYAN. By Canon Venables. 

"A most intelligent, appreciative, and valuable memoir."— Scotsman. 

LIFE OF CRABBE. By T. E. KEBBEL. 

"No English poet since Shakespeare has observed certain aspects of 
nature and of human life more closely."— Athenceum. 

LIFE OF HEINE. By William Sharp. 

" An admirable monograph . . . more fully written up to the level of 
recent knowledge and criticism than any other English work."— Scotsman. 



London : Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick Lane. 



GREAT WRITERS— continued. 

LIFE OF MILL. By W. L. Courtney. 

" A most sympathetic and discriminating memoir."— Glasgow Herald. 

LIFE OF SCHILLER. By Henry W. Nevinson. 

" Presents the poet's life in a neatly rounded picture." — Scotsman. 

LIFE OF CAPTAIN MARRYAT. By David Hannay. 

" We have nothing but praise for the manner in which Mr. Hannay has 
done justice to him."— Saturday Review. 

LIFE OF LESSING. By T. W. Rolleston. 

" One of the best books of the series."— Manchester Guardian. 

LIFE OF MILTON. By Richard Garnett, LL.D. 

" Has never been more charmingly or adequately told."— Scottish Leader. 

LIFE OF BALZAC. By Frederick Wedmork. 

" Mr. Wedmore's monograph on the greatest of French writers of fiction, 
whose greatness is to be measured by comparison with his successors, is a 
piece of careful and critical composition, neat and nice in style."— Daily 
News. 

LIFE OF GEORGE ELIOT. By Oscar Browning. 

"A book of the character of Mr. Browning's, to stand midway be- 
tween the bulky work of Mr. Cross and the very slight sketch of Miss 
Blind, was much to be desired, and Mr. Browning has done his work with 
vivacity, and not without skiU."— Manchester Guardian. 

' T FE OF JANE AUSTEN. By Goldwin Smith. 

" Mr. Goldwin Smith has added another to the not inconsiderable roll 
of eminent men who have found their delight in Miss Austen. . . . His 
little book upon her, just published by Walter Scott, is certainly a fas- 
cinating book to those who already know her and love her well ; and we 
i have little doubt that it will prove also a fascinating book to those who 
have still to make her acquaintance." — Spectator. 

LIFE OF BROWNING. By William Sharp 

" This little volume is a model of excellent English, and in every respect 
it seems to us what a biography should be." — Public Opinion. 

LIFE OF BYRON. By Hon. Roden Noel. 

"The Hon. Roden Noel's volume on Byron is decidedly one of the most 
readable in the excellent 'Great Writers' series." — Scottish Leader. 

LIFE OF HAWTHORNE. By Moncure Conway. 

"It is a delightful causerie— pleasant, genial talk about a most interest- 
ing man. Easy and conversational as the tone is throughout, no important 
fact is omitted, no valueless fact is recalled ; and it is entirely exempt from 
platitude and conventionality."— The Speaker. 

LIFE OF SCHOPENHAUER. By Professor Wallace. 

"We can speak very highly of this little book of Mr. Wallace's. It 
is, perhaps, excessively lenient in dealing with the man, and it cannot 
be said to be at all ferociously critical in dealing with the philosophy."— 
Saturday Review. 



London : Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick Lane. 



GREAT WRITERS— continued. 
LIFE OF SHERIDAN. By Lloyd Sanders. 

M To say that Mr. Lloyd Sanders, in this little volume, has produced the 
best existing memoir of Sheridan, is really to award much fainter praise 
than the work deserves. "—Manchester Examiner. 

LIFE OF THACKERAY. By Hbrman Merivale and F. T. Marzials. 
"The monograph just published is well worth reading, . . . and the book, 
with its excellent bibliography, is one which neither the student nor the 
general reader can well afford to miss."— Pall Mall Gazette. 

LIFE OF CERVANTES. By H. E. Watts. 

" We can commend this book as a worthy addition to the useful series 
to which it belongs." — London Daily Chronicle. 

LIFE OF VOLTAIRE. By Francis Espinassb. 

George Saintsbury, in The Illustrated London News, says:— "In this 
little volume the wayfaring man who has no time to devour libraries will 
find most things that it concerns him to know about Voltaire's actual life 
and work put very clearly, sufficiently, and accurately for the most part." 

LIFE OF LEIGH HUNT. By Cosmo Monkhouse. 

" Mr. Monkhouse has brought together and skilfully set in order much 
widely scattered material . . . candid as well as sympathetic." — The 
Athenaeum. 

LIFE OF WHITTIER. By W. J. Linton. 

" Well written, and well worthy to stand with preceding volumes in tb*» 
useful ' Great Writers ' series."— Black and White. 



LIBRARY EDITION OF " GREAT WRITERS," Demy 8vo, 2s. 6d. 



London : Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick Lanet 



The Contemporary Science Series, 

EDITED BY HAVELOCK ELLIS. 



Crown 8vo, Cloth, 3s. 6d. per vol. ; Half Morocco, 6s. 6d. 

I. THE EVOLUTION OF SEX. By Professor Patrick Geddes and 

J. Arthur Thomson. With 90 Illustrations. Second Edition. 
" The authors have brought to the task— as indeed their names guarantee 
—a wealth of knowledge, a lucid and attractive method of treatment, and a 
rich vein of picturesque language." — Nature. 

II. ELECTRICITY IN MODERN LIFE. By G. W. db Tunzelmann. 

With 88 Illustrations. 
" A clearly-written and connected sketch of what is known about electricity 
and magnetism, the more prominent modern applications, and the principles- 
on which they are based."— Saturday Review. 

III. THE ORIGIN OF THE ARYANS. By Dr. Isaac Taylor. Illus- 

trated. Second Edition. 
" Canon Taylor is probably the most encyclopaedic all-round scholar now 
living. His new volume on the Origin of the Aryans is a first-rate example of 
the excellent account to which he can turn his exceptionally wide and varied 
information. . . Masterly and exhaustive." — Pall Mall Gazette. 

IV. PHYSIOGNOMY AND EXPRESSION. By P. Mantegazza. 

Illustrated. 
" Professor Mantegazza is a writer full of life and spirit, and the natural 
attractiveness of his subject is not destroyed by his scientific handling of it." 
—Literary World (Boston). 

V. EVOLUTION AND DISEASE. By J. B. Sutton, F.R.C.S. With 

135 Illustrations. 
'* The work is of special value to professional men, yet educated persons- 
crenerally will find much in it which it is both interesting and important to 
know."— The Scottish Weekly. 

VI. THE VILLAGE COMMUNITY. By G. L. Gomme. Illustrated. 

" His book will probably remain for some time the best work of reference 
for facts bearing on those traces of the village community which have not 
been effaced by conquest, encroachment, and the heavy hand of Roman law." 
— Scottish Leader. 

VII. THE CRIMINAL. By Havelock Ellis. Illustrated. 

"An ably written, an instructive, and a most entertaining book."— Law 
Quarterly Review. 



London : Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick Lane. 



The Contemporary Science Series— continued. 

VIII. SANITY AND INSANITY. By Dr. Charles Mercibr. Illus- 
trated. 

" Taken as a whole, it is the brightest book on the physical side of mental 
science published in our time."— Pall Mall Gazette. 

IX. HYPNOTISM. By Dr. Albert Moll. Second Edition. 

" Marks a step of some importance in the study of some difficult physio- 
logical and psychological problems which have not yet received much atten- 
tion in the scientific world of England." — Nature. 

X MANUAL TRAINING. By Dr. C. M. Woodward, Director of the 
Manual Training School, St. Louis. Illustrated. 
" There is no greater authority on the subject than Professor Woodward."— 
Manchester Guardian. 

XI. THE SCIENCE OP FAIRY TALES. By E. Sidney Hartland. 
M Mr. Hartland's book will win the sympathy of all earnest students, both 
by the knowledge it displays, and by a thorough love and appreciation of his 
subject, which is evident throughout."— Spectator. 

XIT. PRIMITIVE FOLK. By Eub Reclus. 

" For an introduction to the study of the questions of property, marriage, 
government, religion, — in a word, to the evolution of society, — this little 
volumo will be found most convenient."— Scottish Leader. 

XIII. THE EVOLUTION OF MARRIAGE. By Professor Letourneau. 
" Among the distinguished French students of sociology, Professor Letour- 

neau has long stood in the first rank. He approaches the great study of man 
free from bias and shy of generalisations. To collect, scrutinise, and appraise 
facts is his chief business." — Science. 

XIV. BACTERIA AND THEIR PRODUCTS. By Dr. G. Sims Wood- 
head. Illustrated. • 

"An excellent summary of the present state of knowledge of the subject." — 
Lancet. 

XV. EDUCATION AND HEREDITY. By J. M. Gutad. 

«' It is a sign of the value of this book that the natural impulse on arriving 
at its last page is to turn again to the first, and try to gather up and co- 
ordinate some of the many admirable truths it presents."— Anti-Jacobin. 

XVI. THE MAN OF GENIUS. By Professor Lombroso. Illustrated. 
"By far the most comprehensive and fascinating collection of facts and 

generalisations concerning genius which has yet been brought together." — 
Journal of Mental Science. 

XVII. THE GRAMMAR OF SCIENCE. By Karl Pearson, M.A., 
Orssham Professor of Geometry. Illustrated. 

" Tho problems discussed with great ability and lucidity, and often in a 
most suggestive manner, by Prof. Pearson, are such as should interest all 
students of natural science." — Natural Science. 

XVIII. PROPERTY : ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT. By Pro- 
fessor Letourneau. 

" M. Letourneau has read a great deal, and he seems to us to have selected 
and interpreted his facts with considerable judgment and learning."— West- 
minster Review. 

London : Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick Lane. 



The Contemporary Science Series— continued. 

XIX. VOLCANOES : PAST AND PRESENT. By Edward Hull, M. A., 
LL.D., F.R.S. With 45 Illustrations. 

"A very readable account of the phenomena of volcanoes and earth- 
quakes." — Mature. 

XX. PUBLIC HEALTH. By Dr. J. F. J. Sykes. With numerous 
Illustrations. 

The increased knowledge of the internal and external influences upon health 
obtained within recent years, and the practical applications of which it is 
capable in the prevention of disease, gives rise to many interesting problems, 
some of which are being solved, some are only partially touched, and others 
remain unelucidated. In this volume an attempt will be made to summarise 
and bring to a focus the essential points in evolution, environment, parasitism, 
prophylaxis, and sanitation bearing upon the preservation of the public health. 

XXI. MODERN METEOROLOGY. By Frank Waldo, Ph.D. Illus- 
trated. 

XXII. THE GERM-PLASM. A Theory of Heredity. By A. Weis- 
mann, Professor in the University of Freiburg-in-Breisgau. Price 6s. 
With Illustrations. 

XXIII. THE INDUSTRIES OF ANIMALS. By Frederic Houssay. 
Illustrated. 

"A recent and interesting contribution of the sum of popular knowledge 
of animal instinct is M. Frederic Houssay's work on the Industries of 
Animals. "Spectator. 



The following Writers are preparing Volumes for this Series : — 
Prof. E. D. Cope, Prof. G. F. Fitzgerald, Prof. J. Geikie, Prof. A. C. 
Haddon, Prof. C. H. Herford, Prof. J. Jastrow (Wisconsin), Dr. J. B. 
Longstaff, Prof. James Mavor. 



London : Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick Lane. 



BOOKS AT 3/6. 

THE INSPECTOR-GENERAL. A Russian Comedy, 

by Nikolai V. Gogol. Translated by Arthur A. Sykes. 
THE CAREER OF A NIHILIST. By Stepniak. 

ANNA KARliNINA. By Count Tolstoi. Translated 

by N. H. Dole. 
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. By F. Dostoieffsky. 
A DRAMA IN MUSLIN. By George Moore. 
THE MUMMER'S WIFE. By George Moore. 
A MODERN LOVER. By George Moore. 

THE NEW BORDER TALES. By Sir George 

Douglas, Bart. (Illustrated.) 
FROM AUSTRALIA AND JAPAN. A collection of 

Short Stories. By A. M. (Illustrated.) 
FOR LUST OF GOLD : A Narrative of Adventure. 

By Aaron Watson. (Illustrated.) 
SCOTTISH FAIRY AND FOLK TALES. By Sir 

George Douglas, Bart. (Illustrated.) 
ENGLISH FAIRY AND FOLK TALES. Edited by 

E. Sidney Hartland. (Illustrated.) 
IRISH FAIRY AND FOLK TALES. Edited and 

Selected by W. B. Yeats. (Illustrated.) 
DRAMATIC ESSAYS. Edited by William Archer 
and Robert W. Lowe. 3 Vols. 

The First Series contains the criticisms of Leigh Hunt. 

The Second Series contains the criticisms of William Hazlitt. 

The Third Series contains hitherto uncollected criticisms by John 
Forster, George Henry Lewes, and others. 

IBSEN'S PROSE DRAMAS— Edited by Wm. Archer. 
Vol. I. "A DOLL'S HOUSE," "THE LEAGUE OF 

YOUTH," and "THE PILLARS OF SOCIETY." 
Vol. II. "GHOSTS," "AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE," 

and " THE WILD DUCK." With an Introductory Note. 
Vol. III. "LADY INGER OF OSTRAT," "THE VIKINGS 

AT HELGELAND," " THE PRETENDERS." 
Vol. IV. "EMPEROR AND GALILEAN." With an 

Introductory Note by William Archer. 
Vol. V. " ROSMERSHOLM," "THE LADY FROM THE 

SEA," " HEDDA GABLER." 



London : Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick Lane. 



NEW ENGLAND LIBRARY. 

CLOTH, GILT TOP, 2s. EACH. 
Contains the following Works— 

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE. 

i. THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES. 

2. THE SCARLET LETTER. 

3. MOSSES FROM AN OLD MANSE. 

4. THE NEW ADAM AND EVE. 

5. TWICE-TOLD TALES. 

6. LEGENDS OF THE PROVINCE HOUSE. 

7. THE SNOW IMAGE. 

8. OUR OLD HOME. 

9. TANGLEWOOD TALES. 

10. THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

11. TRUE STORIES FROM HISTORY AND 

BIOGRAPHY. 

12. A WONDER-BOOK FOR GIRLS AND BOYS. 

A. S. HARDY. 

13. BUT YET A WOMAN. 

THEO. WINTHROP. 

14. CECIL DREEME. 

15. JOHN BRENT. 

16. EDWIN BROTHERTOFT. 

17. CANOE AND SADDLE. 

0. W. HOLMES. 

18. AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST-TABLE. 

19. PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST-TABLE. 

20. POET AT THE BREAKFAST-TABLE. 

21. ELSIE VENNER. 

22. A MORTAL ANTIPATHY. 

WASHINGTON IRVING. 

23. THE SKETCH BOOK. 

24. CHRISTMAS. 

In ordering, it is sufficient to note the numbers to the above titles. 

London: Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick Lane. 



LIBRARY OF HUMOUR 

Cloth Elegant, Large Crown Svo, Price 3/6 per vol. 

VOLUMES ALREADY ISSUED. 

THE HUMOUR OF FRANCE. Translated, with an 
Introduction and Notes, by Elizabeth Lee. With numerous 
Illustrations by Paul Frenzeny. 

THE HUMOUR OF GERMANY. Translated, with 
an Introduction and Notes, by Hans Miiller-Casenov. With 
numerous Illustrations by C. E. Brock. 

THE HUMOUR OF ITALY. Translated, with an 
Introduction and Notes, by A. Werner. With 50 Illustrations 
and a Frontispiece by Arturo Faldi. 

THE HUMOUR OF AMERICA. Edited, with an 
Introduction and Notes, by J. Barr (of the Detroit Free Press). 
With numerous Illustrations by C. E. Brock. 

THE HUMOUR OF HOLLAND. Translated, with an 
Introduction and Notes, by A. Werner. With Numerous Illustra- 
tions by Dudley Hardy. 

VOLUMES IN PREPARATION. 

THE HUMOUR OF IRELAND. Selected by D. J. 
O'Donoghue. With numerous Illustrations by Oliver Paque. 

THE HUMOUR OF RUSSIA Translated, with Notes, 
by E. L. Boole, and an Introduction by Stepniak. With 50 
Illustrations by Paul Frenzeny. 

THE HUMOUR OF SPAIN. Translated, with an Intro- 
duction and Notes, by S. Taylor. With numerous Illustrations. 

To be followed by volumes representative of England, 
Scotland, Japan, etc The Series will be complete in about 
twelve volumes. 



London: Walter Scott, Limited, 24 Warwick Lane. 



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